“I commend the following statement by a member of our diocesan staff, the Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews who has, in my own observation, an abiding commitment to justice related to race and poverty. He has been especially concerned with the institutionalized, legalized violence that pervades our society, embodied in our prison and police systems.” — +MHA
In a span of less than twenty-four hours, two more Black men have been killed by the police. These two both had guns — one in his pocket, the other with a concealed carry permit. They were both shot more than once, at point blank range. Video has already been released for what occurred immediately before one shooting and immediately after the other. The racial injustices core to our country’s founding continue to bear fruit as a variety of systems collude to oppress people of color.
While these two shootings took place in Baton Rouge and a Minneapolis suburb, police in the San Francisco Bay Area have been in the spotlight lately as well. The Oakland Police Department — currently under investigation — transitioned between three chiefs in nine days. The Rev. Richard Smith at St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco, has continually drawn light to disparities in how the San Francisco Police Department treats Black and brown citizens of San Francisco.
According to the Washington Post 509 people have been killed by the police in 2016. 509 people have been denied the right to due process and the right to a trial by jury. 40% of those have been Black or Latinx people. A report by the Guardian noted that Black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to killed by police in 2015.
Through our shared humanity we are killed each time one of our human siblings — created in God’s image — is killed. Every time that someone is killed by an agent of the state outside the judicial process, our brother Jesus is executed by the state again and again. As citizens in a representative democracy and as Christians who have vowed to “strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being and the earth” we are challenged and called to speak to our elected leaders about police violence, police militarization, and the impacts of racism by those who represent we the people, those whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars.
We must pray daily for peace and change. We must pray that God intervene in our hearts and motivate us to act, as well. Campaign Zero offers a variety of proposals at all levels of government to combat racist police practices. Identities.Mic has offered 15 things that our cities can do right now to end police brutality.
Bishop Andrus commended to our reading last year and I again refer us to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for a look at how our unjust justice system deeply and systemically impacts Black men and women. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me offers a first-hand view of growing up Black in America — which may be eye-opening and uncomfortable for those who did not share that experience.
Paul writes to us and to the Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” As Christians and humans we must bear the burden of systemic racism and police brutality, which in killing Black and brown people among us kills us all.
The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
Working Group Head for Communications
Diocese of California