I have been feeling so alarmed by the death of Michael Brown. He was a young man, 18. He had just finished high school, I presume because the news reported he was going to start college this coming Monday. The news also reported he was known as a gentle giant, that he wouldn’t have gotten into a scrape with the police, or with anybody, which is neither here nor there, really.
What is here or there is that he was a teenager, a red-blooded living teenager, a child of his mother and father, classmate to the kids in school. Maybe he was many more things, too. Maybe he had a special friend, and maybe he liked toast in the morning Maybe he sassed his mother, and maybe when he wore his favorite cap tilted at just a certain angle, maybe he wore his cap backwards. What else is here or there is that he is another black mother’s son who was killed – who is no more – who is the next black man dead at the hands of the police.
He is another young black man who probably, maybe was taught by his family and community how to walk, talk, and drive while black, how to be careful with in this country because in this country, young black men are given the responsibility to try to keep white men from killing them. “Drive the speed limit,” maybe his mother said to him. “When you’re on the street, don’t loud talk, don’t sass, keep your eyes to yourself,” maybe his father said to him to try to keep him alive long enough to die a natural death at age 90 – every parent’s dream, yes? Maybe his Sunday School teacher taught him that he is the apple of God’s eye. Maybe his preacher, taught him that love casts out fear. Maybe the whole community taught Michael Brown to know his own fear so that when’s he’s stopped by the police, he wouldn’t act out of fear, but instead he’d act out of love – so that his fear would not cause fear in the police when inevitably, he’d be stopped for being black.
But maybe no matter what Michael Brown was taught, maybe we who are white. we who are police officers, shopkeepers, ministers, mothers and fathers, administrators, realtors, teachers have not done the same work. We as a people have not taught our children, congregations, communities how to be vulnerable, how to stand down, how to be uncertain, how to not need to trump, to win, to overrule and oversee. We have not had much practice with our fear. So instead of working with our fear, getting help moving our fear to our love, we whip out our guns, our rules, our changes of mind, our handcuffs, our prisons, our realities which include assumptions of our entitlement to preserve our invulnerability by any means.
You know how it is when a black man is killed, a black woman disappears, a trans person is assaulted, a woman is abused, a queer person is called a name not theirs, it serves notice to the others in the group. Watch out or I will get you, be quiet or I will make you silent, behave or I will squash you. It takes great spiritual practice and strength to stay as big and glorious as God made us, and still our survival is not assured.
So beloved of Hope Central, I want us to ask us as a congregation to notice when a black mother’s son or daughter is killed. I want to ask us, beloved of each other to notice how the death of a black man or woman affects every person in our congregation of African descent. I want to ask us to identify with the black communities and individuals who have suffered the losses of lynching in the old Jim Crow and in the new. Paul, our great theologian wrote of congregations in I Corinthians 12: 26 “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” I want for our people of African Descent to be able to rest assured we are all together noticing the violence, and we are all working, praying, loving, acting so they need not act alone, until the killing of a black mother’s son is as important as the killing of a white mother’s son – until the killing ends.
I want to ask us as a people to do the deep spiritual work of identifying our fear so that we make friends of our fear. It is my dream that we develop the facility and capacity of choosing love when fear our arises, so that we may be like Christ, so that the killing be ended.