Tag Archive: #blacklivesmatter

Sureshbhai Patel, police brutality and us

An Alabama judge just declared a mistrial in the police assault case filed by Indian citizen Sureshbhai Patel. There are a few reasons this case matters to me.

  • The court system has twice been unable to decide whether Mr. Patel’s constitutional rights were violated when he was paralyzed after a leg sweep by a police officer.
  • I’ve been saying for a while now that we make a mistake when we focus completely on police in police brutality cases: Mr. Patel’s encounter with the police was the result of a neighbor who felt threatened by a “skinny Black guy” looking at garages. An older man visiting his son, going for a walk in his son’s neighborhood, was considered enough of a threat to call the police. Others have died for being brown in a neighborhood they actually belonged in, such as Alex Nieto in San Francisco, because someone thought the existence of a Brown person in their neighborhood warranted calling the police. In each individual encounter it is the police who act, but it is the community that creates the culture for the officer to act. White privilege shapes how law enforcement (and so much else) functions in this country.
  • This story is obviously on my radar because it is being discussed in the South Asian community, but Mr. Patel’s paralysis has everything to do with the culture of anti-Blackness that is baked into our culture. Mr. Patel was a threat when he was perceived to be Black, in the same way that the teenager at the Texas pool party was a threat because she was Black, or the teenage girl at Spring Valley High, or Tamir Rice in Cleveland…all people who clearly are not threats except for the cultural understanding that Blackness is threatening enough to need control and suppression by armed police.

The first jury deadlocked on September 11, appropriate since that is the day that South Asians learned in a big way that while we had generally (although not ubiquitously) been considered “American enough” as long as we were not disruptive, that status could be removed at will by a government that violated basic constitutional rights and imprisoned innocent people because of their names and heritage, as our government has done in the past. As the second jury deadlocked two days ago, I am saddened but not surprised. And I pray it helps my own community recognize the need to be in solidarity with those on the margins rather than desperately seeking to be accepted by the dominant culture.

When #BlackLivesMatter, when #BlackandBrownLivesMatter, and when #AllLivesMatter

We really missed Pastor P___ at the interfaith breakfast two weeks ago. He has a powerful spirit and he’s involved in EVERYTHING in our community. And I was looking forward to hearing him talk about the Black and Latino clergy group that meets to talk about their shared commitment to one another’s communities, both under assault.

But Pastor P____ had to be with family. The night before, his mother-in-law had died at the border at the hands of a Coyote, a smuggler of immigrants.

We grieved, but I don’t know how many Americans grieved with us about another victim of the US-Mexico border. And I wonder how much Brown lives matter in America, even though Brown labor fuels the American economy.

yeshua

Yeshua by John Bonifacio Moreno

In a faith community celebrating resurrection, I am not sure my community really wants to see a Brown Jesus rise.

 

Walter Scott shouldn’t have had to be famous. He shouldn’t have been chased and killed and framed. Unlike Pastor P____’s mother-in-law, we will all know his name soon if we don’t already.

In his Easter sermon, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou said that the blood of Michael Brown might ultimately be our salvation: we might find redemption in creating a world where no more Michael Browns will be slain. But today, unable to watch the footage of the hunting and killing of the father of four, I wonder whether that feels as unlikely to Rev. Sekou as it does to me.

In a faith community celebrating resurrection, I am not sure my community really wants to see a Black Jesus rise.blackjesus66

 

On Good Friday, I joined a worship/public witness in front of the courthouse and jail. We prayed ten stations of the cross, recognizing their intersections with the cruel treatment inflicted on Black people and Black communities, joining with the whole #ReclaimHolyWeek community. We chanted, “In Jim Crow America, the body of Christ is Black.” The leadership and coordination was mostly although not all Black. One of my sheroes from the Black Friday 14 personed the megaphone so we could hear all the speakers. (I participated in communion, offering the blessing over the cup.) And one of my favorite pastors led the opening invocation. She is proudly Black (and proudly queer) and she is fiercely committed to advocating for the dignity of her people.

And she said, “Black Lives Matter.” And she followed it with “All Lives Matter.”

Which is a controversial thing to say within the movement, because “All Lives Matter” is usually used to reject the campaign that says “Black Lives Matter.” And because until we live in an America that acknowledges that all lives will matter WHEN Black lives matter, we still have a long way to go.

But my radical and prophetic sister in Christ said it.

Because it was Good Friday.

And because salvation is for all of us.

And those of us gathered already knew that in America Black Lives don’t matter as much as White lives. And most of us also know that the American economy relies on cheap immigrant labor and forced prison labor so that Black and Brown output matter even while Black and Brown lives do not.

And we knew that we gather to worship a savior who rejected that kind of paradigm, and that is part of what landed him on the cross.

And we knew that all of ours souls are at stake because systemic racism misshapes all of us.

 

I wished in that moment that all of my brothers and sisters who are hurt and offended by the Black Lives Matter campaign could have seen what I saw and felt what I felt in that moment: that part of the Black Lives Matter movement is done for the salvation of everyone, saving us from the fear of Black people we are trained into in order to keep us divided, saving us from broken relationships where we cannot fully know one another and therefore can at best imperfectly love one another, saving us from a militarized police state where the people who join the police force to serve and protect us are trained to view many of us with suspicion and fear, saving us from not being who God made us to be.

 

I used to love that oft preached Good Friday sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a’comin’.”

It doesn’t feel like a Sunday world right now. It does not feel like a world ready to embrace a risen insurrectionist any more than it can embrace a Mexican woman longing for family and hope long before she is strangled at the border, any more than it can embrace a Black Coast Guard veteran and father of four long before he is shot for no reason.

The only consolation I find as a person of faith today is that while in a faith community celebrating resurrection, I am not sure my community really wants to see a Black or Brown Jesus rise, He rises nonetheless. And despite my heartbreak yet again, I see Him rising in us.

May we be an Easter people, a people of the resurrection for all people, because Black and Brown lives are at stake, and because that means that everyone’s life is at stake.

Christmas values – Day 11: Overcoming fear

A friend of mine has vowed to recognize every action as an act of love or reaching out for love.

She vowed that in the midst of the Ferguson and New York protests and possibly even after the police shootings that was followed by some truly alarming statements by Fraternal Orders of Police and police officers’ unions (the Bay Area’s statement was somewhat tame in comparison) about the need for a police state and unquestioning loyalty to the police. (Another friend explained that they were doing what unions do — assuring their members that they have their members’ backs under any circumstances, in ways that can be alarming or seem entrenched and militant and hostile to outsiders; he noted that teachers’ union statements can come off as militant and unyielding as well, although I bet they don’t talk about teachers as the only barrier against anarchy and chaos and the only line of defense of civilization.)

I would like to be as compassionate as my friend, because in my heart I believe that is true; it’s just that many of us have been scarred so much that our expressions of love or need for love have become misshapen in some incredibly problematic ways.

And so my intermediary step is this: I’m going to start trying to find compassion for the FEAR that underlies aggressive language and behavior. (more…)

Michael Brown, Worship this Sunday, and Confusing Unity with Comfort

I am tired of my church breaking my family’s heart.

I wasn’t going to write about Michael Brown. Many others have already done so, reflectively and powerfully, including writing about the role of the White church in the midst of this moment of pain.

I wasn’t going to write about it because I’ve written on it before. And I’ve preached on it. And I’ve posted and I’ve tweeted and I’ve shouted at rallies for Alan Blueford and Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant.

I wasn’t going to write about it because I wrote about it when the church didn’t acknowledge Jordan Davis’s murder because…I don’t know; Stand Your Ground fatigue? Lack of information? Complexity? Lack of relevance?

I wasn’t going to write because if I wrote about Michael Brown, what would I do with the stories of John Crawford (killed last week in Walmart in southern Ohio for being seen in the toy aisle with a toy gun the store was selling) or Ezell Ford (shot today by the LAPD while lying down), also pressing in on me? But I am tired of the church breaking my family’s heart. And we have a chance to do something different this Sunday, if we don’t sacrifice the lives of children on the altar of unity yet again.

 

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