As the disparities between poor and rich, black and white, uneducated and educated increase, so does the civil unrest brewing in the underbelly of this amazing country we call home. I usually steer clear of political statements and other pronouncements about the many changes we need to effect in the United States because as a successful immigrant of color with a background of poverty, I was afforded opportunities to achieve that I might not have had otherwise. Nevertheless, today’s headlines engendered a deep sadness inside my soul. We keep reading about gun violence and violence overall but today it is about the systemic brutality and violence of those who are supposed to be protecting us and the unjust and frankly racist underpinnings of excessive force that seems to disproportionately affect persons of color, in particular, African Americans and so often seems to end in death… Once is an anomaly, even twice might be by chance, but the evidence clearly demonstrates there is an extremely high incidence of arrests and excessive use of force for anyone who dares ask the question, “What did I do wrong?”
I have experienced racism and prejudice in my own life (being perceived at various times and places as Latino, Filipino, Black, Mulatto, Chinese, Brazilian, etc.) but never to the extent that I have seen perpetrated against one of the kindest, most law abiding persons I know (my spouse) who happens to be Black. Imagine driving home from work from a late shift at the hospital and being pulled over by a police car (for no reason other than suspicion and driving Black too late at night), pulled out of your vehicle, accused of drug possession, handcuffed and arrested, thrown in jail and miraculously being released in about 6 hours with no apology, no reasons or explanations given, no charges, no prosecution… The sheer terror of such an ordeal is sufficient to shake you to your core. To add insult to injury, you have to hire a lawyer and pay thousands of dollars to have this illegal arrest expunged from your record. Luckily, Marvin survived this ordeal with law enforcement and is alive to tell the story. Unfortunately, this and other experiences (from being informed “the position you applied for has been filled” when he appears for the interview to being tailed in a retail store by security) have reshaped him as a person. He continues in his kind and gentle ways but there is joy that has been stolen from him and an optimism that has been replaced with the harsh reality of the world.
As Christian people who follow a Savior who sought justice for the meek, the diseased, the shunned, the alienated and the poor, what should we be doing to stem the violence and unjust actions of our society? We are called to speak out for those who can’t speak, to stand for those who can’t get up, to place ourselves in the gap for those who can’t cross over. I believe that we are heading for disaster if we do not, in love and compassion, speak out, stand up and place ourselves in the gap for those whose very lives are being threatened. Otherwise the violence will continue to escalate. It is only through our loving actions that this place we call home can be transformed. Are you willing to speak out, stand up and place yourself in that gap? This is not a call to arms for that is what got us here in the first place. It is a call to consciousness. An awakening and awareness that the suffering and pain out there is real and we all have a responsibility to create a world in which love and caring trump greed and violence. Peace.