When I was little my brother, three years my senior, gave me a black eye. My mother tells me that I was a very mean toddler, especially mean to my mild-mannered and gentle brother. If I cried, to soothe me, he would give me a rattle. I’d take the rattle and hit him with it and continue to cry. Then he’d start crying.
I, in fact, hit him all the time. I was quite a bully to him. My mother would urge him to defend himself, “don’t let her hit you, Justin. Hit her back.” He would hit me softly. Then I’d begin to cry. Then he’d start crying.
Until one day, he had had enough. I hit him per my usual. He turned around and punched me dead in my eye. I was stunned. Then I began to cry. He didn’t cry.
Nor did he get into trouble. Rather, my mother sat me down and said, “that’s what happens when you hit people.” It was enough for me. My days as a bully were over. I’ve never hit him or anyone ever since nursing that black eye.
Charlotte, NC and the nation is nursing a black eye this morning. After the excessive use of force on black citizens at the hand of the police, the excessive bullying of black people, black people began to hit back with rioting, looting, and destruction last night. Allow me to share with the city and with the nation the lesson my mother taught me so many years ago:
“that’s what happens when you hit people.”
That’s what happens when you bully a race.
I am in awe at the way that politicians, public figures, and especially pastors are decrying the violence that took place last night as if the protestors were the perpetrators of the current civil unrest. We have to stop this long and painful tradition of blaming the victim. We have to stop offering the people platitudes of peace and start telling the truth.
The truth is that the police are killing black people. Without reason. Without repercussion
The truth is that black people have had enough.
As an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have dedicated my life to the radical peace that Jesus upheld. It is the same radical peace that has been championed by every faith leader from Apostle Paul to Martin Luther King, Jr. But it has not escaped my notice that Jesus, Paul, and King (yes, King) were all three violently killed by a state sanctioned execution in the middle of the streets just like every black man whose blood has been spilt at the hands of a police officer. That’s why when I see the pictures of Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice I see Jesus.
They killed him.
They shot. him.
They crucified him.
They will keep shooting, crucifying black men until we as a nation make peace. Peace is the only solution.
But peace must begin where the problem begins.
Peace must begin by calling the police the perpetrators and not the victims.
Peace must begin by calling the black community who have retaliated in rage the victims and not the perpetrators.
Peace must begin with naming the use of excessive force sinful, not understandable.
Peace must begin with making fatal shooting illegal, not allowable.
Peace begins with naming the problem. The problem is not the rioters. The problem is the reason for the riot.
The problem is the lack of regulation of the police force.
The problem is state sanctioned executions in the middle of the street.
The problem is systemic racism that is as old as the nation itself.
If we want peace, we must begin there. And if we do not start now the city, the nation will be nursing much more than a black eye. Because so many grew up with two great proverbs in tensions:
the proverb of Jesus the Christ who said,
“when someone hits you, turn the other cheek.”
And the proverb of every black mother in America who said,
“If someone hits you. Hit them back.”
We must seek peace now because the time for marching is over. The time for hashtag memorials are over. Black people aren’t going to beg for our lives. We are going to do exactly what our mothers taught us to do. We are going to fight for them.