When “Hands Up” Is Shot Down

What do black people have to do to NOT GET SHOT? With every new nauseating report of excessive police violence against people of color, we hear from law enforcement officials (or read online in the enter-at-your-own-risk crazy town comments section) the corresponding excuses and justifications and defensive “well this…but that…the officer thought…the boy didn’t…the woman should have…if…then…” WHAT?!

NO! Can we just STOP with this insane drive to convince ourselves and others that people with the “good” guns always have a “good” reason to shoot? As if it’s somehow always the black victim’s fault that (cue sober press conference), “Unfortunately, in the line of duty, these things sometimes happen in the heat of the moment.” NO! This CANNOT be our continual refrain.

This video, the latest in a far-too-long list of disturbing videos, is inexplicable and depicts yet another occurrence of unnecessary police force against a black person:

This man is lying still, both hands empty and high in the air, communicating as calmly and respectfully as he can that he is a professional trying to help his autistic patient (another crucial awareness/training topic desperately needed) and an officer STILL SHOOTS HIM! Scared parents are already operating in this backwards reality of coaching their black sons and daughters how to safely interact with police:

Tweet: What do parents say to kids when precautions make no difference, when even What do parents say to kids when precautions make no difference, when even “hands up” is shot down?

I have much appreciation and respect for the many good, caring, hard-working, sacrificial public servants in many of our communities. I know you are out there day in and day out trying to make this a better world, in the midst of cynicism, in the face of danger. And if you are one of them – if you are “one of the good guys” – then STAND UP for the goodness of your profession. We plead with you:

Tweet: STAND UP for your integrity as justice keepers; denounce cops who shoot to kill with the endorsement of a badge. http://ctt.ec/l6B6h+STAND UP for the integrity of your calling as justice keepers, and denounce cops who shoot to kill with the endorsement of a badge.

I understand it’s a fiercely loyal “brotherhood” and police men and women are expected to stick by each other no matter what – that it might seem dishonorable to not stand up for a fellow officer. But these violent actions by ones who share your uniform dishonor YOUR good name! And when you say nothing or when you continually defend without ever just plain saying, “THIS IS WRONG, this is NOT how good policing is done,” then we see you aligning yourselves with injustice:

Tweet: When justice keepers are aligned with injustice we lose trust, we lose faith, we lose hope, we lose respect. http://ctt.ec/Re1Ef+ ?When justice keepers are aligned with injustice, we lose trust, we lose faith, we lose hope, we lose respect.

Please help us build trust. Show us we can believe in good faith that you are on the side of justice for all, including justice for the wrong actions of law enforcement. Hope with us for a better tomorrow, a better community. Let us all insist on respect for every human life and restore respect in every human interaction. May each of us start by acknowledging with actions beyond words that black lives matter.

** I am convicted to add a concluding note, specifically to those who know me and with whom I have personally interacted. (That means I am not talking directly to any internet strangers because we have not had a relationship in which to dialogue – but feel free to listen in.) As your family member or friend or pastor, as a parent from the neighborhood or school or sports, as a retreat leader or ministry colleague – I humbly say to you with care, my largely white community, that my thoughts and feelings written here, thematically directed toward the law enforcement establishment, are also written with urgency to any person in my circles, past or present, close or distant, who takes in these stories day after day and is quickly compelled to add a caveat of black blame but slow to acknowledge WE HAVE A RACISM PROBLEM. I care about you. I know you as caring people. We need to care about this. **

Go. Show. Love.

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