I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about the death of Philando Castile. Then I woke up to the news of five police officers shot. My heart is breaking.
What I kept thinking about: A month ago, I ran a red light. There was a tall, very long truck in front of me, which I followed through the intersection. I couldn’t see the light until I was half-way through the intersection. Then I realized my mistake and said, “Oh no. I just ran a red light.” Then I saw the lights flashing on a police car. I pulled into a nearby parking lot, hoping the police officer would know I was just concerned for his safety. I didn’t want to pull over on a narrow busy road and have him standing where he could get hit. He was kind and respectful as he told me my mistake. He asked for my driver’s license and registration and I couldn’t find my driver’s license. I went through all the cards in my wallet. I finally found it in the front pocket of my purse.
As the police officer went back to his car, the man sitting in the passenger seat of my car, an out-of-town guest, said to me “It’s good you are not black. You would have been shot for taking so long to find your driver’s license.” I was quiet, but I was thinking, “You don’t get shot in a routine traffic stop.” I was crying last night thinking I was wrong.
I ended up with a traffic ticket. Our four-year-old daughter was also in my car, too, at the time. My daughter said with innocent faith, “The police are always right, Mom. Don’t run a red light.” I kept contrasting her statements with the comments from the dear four-year-old girl in Philando Castile’s car. Her faith in police officers, if she had any, forever shattered. I couldn’t stop crying.
Where was Philando’s angel? Where was his protection? Why did this have to happen?
My heart breaks for Philando’s mother, who raised a man who fed crowds in a school cafeteria and welcomed children. I know that Mary is in heaven weeping with his mother, weeping bitterly. I know that the four-year-old had an angel whose eyes were on the face of God. I know that Christ is with the suffering.
I pray for an end to the shedding of innocent blood and I pray for the safety of police officers, too, in this tumultuous time. May this situation call us all to our highest selves, cause us to choose love over fear, and teach us to cherish the value of human life.
Update 7/11: I thought this article is worth sharing as an update to the above initial thoughts and questions. A Harvard economist took a close look at the data regarding police use of force and police shootings and race. The numbers painted a much more nuanced picture than I expected. When it comes to the use of deadly force, there does not appear to be a racial bias against blacks, but when you look at lesser uses of force (generally speaking, the use of physical intimidation) there does appear to be racial bias. Looking at these numbers, my guess is that these smaller uses of force create real fear as people talk. Then when a black citizen really is shot by the police, it throws fuel on all those fears in a way that doesn’t happen when a white citizen is shot and killed. Maybe what needs to be addressed are the smaller displays of police force that might contribute to feelings of fear. I think it’s helpful that Roland G. Fryer Jr. took time to collect and study all this data. Numbers always help me put a situation in perspective. It’s also interesting to read data regarding the likelihood of being pulled over for a traffic offense based on race (especially in the suburbs). This is a complicated issue. I continue to pray for healing and understanding and for the perfect love that drives out all fear.
As I reflect on the data, my take-away is that what makes it into the headlines does not show the root of the problem; really, it’s the smaller stuff we never see: Every time a citizen shows respect it makes a difference; every time a police officer acts in accordance with professional standards it helps; every act of kindness matters. So I am praying big for millions and millions of small kind acts in the right direction!