The North Miami Beach Police Department has been using mugshots of black men for target practice, according to the Washington Post. When confronted, the police chief said this was a common practice and initially refused to acknowledge any error in judgment. Is there any question that our wider culture needs to be reminded that "Black Lives Matter"?
Clergy got word of the North Miami Beach Police Department and posted photographs of themselves on Twitter under the hashtag “take me instead.” The posts shamed the local community’s practice, and within a week, the city council banned the practice of using mugshots for target practice. The city manager was deeply apologetic to the large number of people who showed up at the city council meeting demanding that the practice stop.
How this practice was carried out until public outcry is emblematic of a deeper more systemic problem. People of color too often get treated differently. Even at a leading university--read what happened to the son of New York Times columnist Charles Blow: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/opinion/charles-blow-at-yale-the-police-detained-my-son.html.
A week ago, our nation celebrated the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are coming up on the fifty anniversary of the Selma march and the greatest civil rights legislation, and yet our nation grapples with the reality that the color of one’s skin contributes to how one is treated--sometimes with lethal consequences.
Racism still plays a pernicious role in our society, reducing the odds of people of color to live full and flourishing lives. As our country grapples with its original sin of treating black people as less than human, real change will come only on the local level where hearts and minds are changed. This takes the sharing of stories and millions of personal conversations.
Here in Oak Park, I offered the opening prayer for a Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally. Here are my words:
O Source of All Love, Eternal Mystery of God within, among, and beyond us,
We gather heartbroken, angry,
We also gather in hope,
O spirit of life,
warm our hearts in each other’s presence,
for we gather to stand together to declare Black Lives Matter,
to declare that we cannot tolerate patterns of injustice.
You open our hearts to the anguish of the parents of Michael Brown,
to the agony of the family of Eric Garner,
to the suffering of untold families who have lost loved ones
to the reckless, needless violence of individuals charged to maintain order.
You disturb us with overwhelming discontent with how too many police officers whose brazen show of force, even if scared and overwhelmed, don’t even elicit, in our current system, a fair trial.
Save us from apathy,
Don’t let us be simply too busy to care.
Turn our hearts to the deep sorrow and concern and outrage
that the color of our skin does matter
how each of us is treated,
that people of color are much more likely
to be targeted by police for misconduct,
penalized more harshly in a court of law, and killed by members of our law enforcement.
Open our spirits to the sun of your grace and warm our hearts in each other’s presence.
Black lives matter. Black lives matter. (chant)
show us how to walk with one another to embody this conviction,
not just today but in the months to come.
Show us how to walk with one another
to stand for meaningful change.
And so, O god, Guide us, if we're willing and drive us if we are not,
into the hard ways of justice-seeking and justice-making.
Breathe into us the restlessness and courage
to stand together,
to be moved by one another,
and make something new, something saving, and something true,
so together we embody beloved community.