Trying to define racism in the 21st Century is very difficult. I tend to agree with Danielle S. Allen in her book “Talking to Strangers.” She wrote:
“A great deal of interracial distrust now is a product more of retrospection than of immediate personal experience and prevails along fossilized boundaries of difference.”
It is not that we don’t have policies, systems and people that harbor racist ideologies and stereotypes explicit or implicit; it is rather that identifying the motive as racism when people clash at the color line is more a default position
than absolute fact.
A review of the historical nature of racial conflict between people of color and police departments has raised the consciousness of America about the deeper nature of race in profiles of power. The recent shootings of unarmed black males by white police officers have brought a nation-wide resurgence of the race question and the question of equal justice for people of color.
Hopefully, a meaningful dialogue about race will bring back a healthier level of trust. Systems of justice, however, must be challenged to reflect greater accountability and transparency. The current system of internal police investigations, close association with local prosecutors and private grand jury hearings leaves too much room for malfeasance and the miscarriage of justice.
Better training, racial balance among officers, body cameras and community policing programs should help reduce poor judgment and the need to use deadly force. The use of an independent prosecutor and the establishment of a community review board with subpoena power will enhance accountability and create a higher level of trust.
Finally, as a theologian, allow me the privilege of sharing a biblical truth. There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). Racism is a social construction intended to marginalize and subjugate people as “the other” under systems of power and attitudes of oppression. It dehumanizes in order to support a sense of privilege, a supremacist view of life and the desensitization of a person’s worth and value. However, when you peel back the skin, that’s all it is –skin. It covers the body but it doesn’t define character. What a wondrous point of human diversity that skin comes in a variety of beautiful colors!
Faith Leaders Call for
Given the decision to not bring charges against the officer who choked Eric Garner to death, and in light of what has happened with Trevon Martin and Michael Brown, the Greater Lansing Clergy Forum along with Action of Greater Lansing, One Love Global, N.E.O.N., and affiliate organizations called for a Town Hall Meeting between the citizens of Lansing and the Lansing City, County and State Police Departments; our City, County and State Officials and the Judiciary:
The Town Hall Meeting and community forum on policing was held Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 at 6 p.m. at the Union Missionary Baptist Church: 500 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; Lansing, MI 48915
While our community may not be directly impacted by the demonstrations happening in Ferguson and New York, we chose to be proactive by opening up needed dialogue with government authorities concerning the policies that justify the use of deadly force and the judicial processes that govern our system of justice.
Over the past 90 days, a number of police-related incidences related to deadly force have captured national attention as tensions mount between communities of color and local police departments. The failure to bring indictments against police officers in Ferguson and New York City has brought this tension to a boiling point. The question of whether the justice system is rigged to protect police officers from prosecution, especially in cases involving the use of deadly force against African American males, is a valid concern, especially given recent outcomes acquitting officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
We will keep you posted as we continue to expand and improve this important on-going dialogue.
For further information, please contact Action's Coordinator,
Aida Cuadrado, at 517-348-6263
Click on the photo above to go to the Lansing State Journal's report and photo gallary on this important meeting
Action's co-President, Rev. Melvin Jones, describes the purpose of this town hall meeting.