A quote, a question and a response

A few days ago I posted a picture with a quote from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (above).  The quote concerned protests and how they are covered by the press.  Particularly how they were labelled “anti-police protests”.

In response, a friend asked a good question.

“Was that the protest march where they were shouting that they wanted dead cops?”

It’s a good question, and a better point.  Is it reasonable to call protests where folks call for the death of police an anti-police protest?  I think it is.

But that good question, and the larger point of Kareem’s quote, raises other issues.  I choose to respond to those and share my response.  Here it is…

Good question. I don’t know the answer. To me, though, your question does raise other issues. The big one being the vast distance between the experience of white people and black people with the police. I’ve engaged in a mutual study of racial issues from a theological perspective with black pastors from Peoria (we’ll be doing it again here in January). The first question one pastor asked the white pastors present was, “What is your experience with the police.” We shared stories. It’s not even close. For me, it seems beyond rational to call for the death of police in America in my context. I don’t support such calls for violence, let alone violent acts of any kind. But I experience the police as those who help protect me and my neighborhood and I’ve always been treated fairly. I don’t know anyone who has been harassed, let alone killed, by the police. Every black person I know has at least a few stories of being pulled over for a DWB (Driving While Black). The stories get worse from there. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and you can’t help but see that there is a problem with race in our legal system. So when I hear that such chants were made, I tend not to judge those who make them, but try to understand what on earth is going on such that people would say such things. I also experience that response – calling for the death of someone who is perceived to be persecuting, terrorizing, killing your people – as a particularly common American response. The logic behind the chants is no different than the logic undergirding the Bush doctrine of killing our enemies over there before they come here. The use of violence to get what one wants is a problem for all Americans. The problem is that most Americans only respect their own claims to righteous, violent, self-defense against those that attack them. They can’t understand the counter-claims of those who have different experiences, in this case poor, urban, black folks. So, I guess, even if these protestors were chanting that, I look at that as a wake-up call for all people who care about peace and justice to listen more carefully to the experiences of black people regarding the police. A knee-jerk defense of an institution that has served me well in the face of evidence that the same institution is hurting others in some cases isn’t helpful for me as a “Jesus-loving free white man”. To be clear; I don’t support the calls for any violence to others, or actual violence committed against others for any reason. It only creates more violence and doesn’t lead to the peace with justice that God desires. Thanks for the question..


What do you think?


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