Last night a Grand Jury failed to indict a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in the killing of Michael Brown. The Grand Jury found that the officer followed proper police procedure in shooting Brown six times. Mr. Brown age 18 was unarmed.
A few days ago a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland was shot twice in the torso and killed. It was found that the boy (name currently withheld) was carrying an air gun.
Both Michael Brown and the 12-year-old were African-Americans reinforcing a fear of many black parents that their sons are targeted by police for arrest and shootings at a rate far higher than other racial groups. According to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings of young black males in recent years, were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.
Imagine yourself as the parent of an African-American male and worrying for the safety of your child. I’m particularly concerned about the protocols taken as a given for police as to when to use deadly force.
It is jarring to hear authorities calling for restraint on the part of an outraged populace in places like Ferguson while police protocols sanction the shooting six times of an unarmed Michael Brown.
In my opinion what is needed is a nationwide debate as to the use of violence to resolve differences. What is needed is an acknowledgment that the age-old model of violence being met by violence does not work, indeed it has always led to only more violence.
Imagine a day when police officers are trained in primarily non-lethal ways of defusing tensions and enforcing laws. Imagine a day when enraged citizens don’t feel the need to burn stores and overturn cars but rather are trained as Dr. King taught in non-violent civil disobedience.
Dr. Martin Luther King understood what it is like to be the target of violence. One evening King received word that his home in Montgomery had been bombed. After reassuring himself about the safety of his wife and baby, he had to confront the rage of a crowd of blacks bent on retaliation. As he spoke to them, his own willingness to forgive prompted him to dispel their rage and to renew their commitment to nonviolence:
“We cannot solve this problem of racism through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the words of Jesus, “He who lives by the sword will die by the swortd.”…We must love our white brothers no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them….We must meet hate with love.”
Dr. King spoke these words 51 years ago. The high rate of incarceration of African-American males and the high rate of police shootings tell us that we as a nation still have a racial problem.
My hope and prayer is that this controversy in Ferguson will lead to a renewed debate about how police are trained to defuse tensions and serve their community. What we do know is violence, sanctioned by the state or arising from an outraged community only leads to more violence.
Can we imagine a world where hate is met by love?