Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications for the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz, and she blogs at Not All Those Who Wander. Laurie is currently working on a book called The Making of a Hero: How you and those around you are changing the world.
It happened again yesterday.
This time, one Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of a black man until he could no longer breathe.
The man’s name was George Floyd and his hushed and desperate “I can’t breathe!” reminded many of us of Eric Garner, both in the words and the situation. And, in both cases, their cries did not stop the officers and neither did they stop their deaths.
Onlookers reacted differently than the fired officers, many pleading for the officer to get up. As one Washington Post article explains,
“Witnesses begged the white officer to take his knee off the man’s neck. ‘You’re going to just sit there with your knee on his neck?’ one bystander said on the video….
‘Bro, he’s not even f—— moving!’ one bystander pleaded to police. ‘Get off of his neck!’
Another asked, ‘Did you kill him?’”
Based on what they saw, the Minneapolis police department acted swiftly, firing the officers.
How can we not be angry about this?
Indeed, anger is the appropriate response, but not the only response. And, this moment should remind us that cameras tell us what happened, but they also remind us of how many incidents there have been without those cameras.
All of us, if we follow the news on a semi-regular basis, have seen way too many moments like this.
I am weary. And I am mad.
Cameras continue to show us what many African Americans have known for years.
And if one video a day was not enough, a thousand miles away, Amy Cooper (a white woman) was walking her dog off leash in a part of Central Park (NYC) when Christian Cooper, a black man who was bird-watching, asked her to leash her dog in the area—which is designated as leash-only. The situation escalated when Amy Cooper became upset, saying, “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops. I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” At the end of the call, she escalated her tone and her faux panic and the camera told us the ugly truth—she was using his race as a weapon.
In the coming days, there will likely be efforts to try to explain this story away. As a church, we must resist these efforts and confront the reality behind this and similar stories. It’s racism on display. And it always brings deep pain.
She was fired and she has apologized—but how many others were not on video? Actually, would she even have considering apologizing if it were not for the video?
We don’t know what she would have done, but we do know what our eyes clearly showed us.
Let our anger remind us to be our brother’s keeper.
My Brother’s Keeper
What both of these have in common is this simple little thing called a camera. Both exchanges were caught on video with a cell phone. Both instances of injustice were captured because another person felt they needed documentation.
In Central Park, Christian Cooper recorded the verbal assault. In Minneapolis, a bystander painfully recorded the horrific act which resulted in the loss of a man’s life.
There is a phrase you likely have heard and it’s a powerful one: “my brother’s keeper.” It harkens us back to the early days of humanity when Cain, after murdering his brother, was confronted by God: “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Gen. 4:9).
This, of course, was a ridiculous reply in the face of an all-knowing God.
As a Christian, there is both a sense of great peace and of great dread in knowing that the God we serve sees all and knows all. There is nowhere, scripture tells us, where God isn’t. C.S. Lewis says it this way: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito.”
As I reflected on the actions of those Minneapolis officers who took an oath to protect and serve all, I couldn’t help but be grateful for that one courageous woman who took out her camera and hit “record.” She was her brother’s keeper.
The voices of those without power were captured—pleading for this man’s life to be spared. The actions of the officers were captured—as a painful reminder of the injustice too many of our friends of color face.
Depravity and the goodness were captured in that 10-minute video.
When someone asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” the answer is always a resounding yes. How this plays out varies. We yell and advocate. We hit record and document. We use our platforms and our voices to speak for our friends who live in fear because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity.
We are all George Floyd’s keeper. And Christian Cooper’s keeper. We are all bound to each other because we are all made in the image of God.
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Source: Christianity Today