by Liam Adams ‘17
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, the governor of North Carolina, Pat McCroy, declared a state of emergency for the city of Charlotte. McCroy made this declaration because of the explosion of riots and protests that started after the death of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year old black man who was shot by Officer Brentley Vinson of the Charlotte Police Department. Scott’s death followed the death of Terence Crutcher, a black man who was killed by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Friday, Sept. 16. The death of Crutcher may have been another motivator for the genesis of the Charlotte riots.
It is astonishing too that the riots in Charlotte occurred three months after major riots/protests in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge. These riots were spurred on by the death of two other black men, Philando Castille and Alton Sterling, who were shot by police officers.
The commonality between the protests in Dallas and Charlotte is observable. People are rioting and protesting because black and brown people are being killed and brutalized by police officers. Not every police officer is racist and uses their power in an excessive way. There are many cases in which police have acted that way, and as a result, people of color are killed and riots arise because the loved ones of the dead are angry and sad.
In a 1994 interview in Beverly Hills, CA, the rapper Tupac Shakur was talking about the suffering that black people were experiencing. Among the issues that he discussed, police brutality was one of them.
Tupac used the analogy of food being offered every day in a hotel room that he isn’t allowed access to. He said that at first, he would knock and say, “We hungry, please let us in.” Eventually, after still not being given access, Tupac said he would get so hungry that he would “be picking the lock, come blasting through.”
Tupac used this analogy to describe how black people were being abused and were asking for relief. That relief and emancipation never came and as a result, the people went to taking more vociferous efforts to get the attention of those who were in power.
Tupac’s oration seems to describe the circumstances of our current society. Black and brown people and their allies are rising up (i.e. Black Lives Matter movement) to knock on the door and say that police brutality must end. Our government and society still have not made significant changes and in consequence, these people are picking the lock and blasting through. This “blasting through” is seen in the Dallas and Charlotte riots. Our nation’s callousness to the knocking on the door can be seen by our inability to pass legislation and enact reform on the social justice system.
Police brutality exists. There is no refuting this reality. As a nation, we need to place this issue at the top of our priorities. There is not just a state of emergency for the city of Charlotte, there is a state of emergency for the United States of America. The longer that we allow this smog to engulf our social atmosphere, the longer we allow our fellow Americans to suffocate.
I chose to write this piece specifically for a Gordon audience. I believe that Jesus and the Gospel call his followers to be agents of justice and reconciliation. If we truly care about the installation of the gospel in the world, we should be open to the ways in which we should care for our neighbors. God’s children are dying and suffering and it’s time to create change so that God’s love might manifest more fully in this world.
As there are many ways of going about addressing police brutality on a national scale, I think that the Gordon community should be seeking ways to create more awareness about this issue. Whether that is bringing in chapel speakers, attending ALANA events or bringing up the topic of police brutality in class. We need to be able to sit with this issue and prioritize it as a problem that we should care about. In a more general sense, I think Christians should be seeking an integration and servitude to the world, rather than an isolation from it.
P.S. This article is not an effort to denounce or counter VP of Student Life Jennifer Jukanovich’s email. If anything, it is echoing some of the things that she said.
The link to the Tupac interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMXzLhbWtmk
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