I watched my dad get arrested one time.
It was sometime in the early ‘90s. He’d pulled up in front of our house with a police cruiser following closely behind. The sound of the siren drew my mom, brother, and me to the windows. We watched him get knocked down as the officer skillfully subdued and cuffed him.
We were terrified. Was Dad going to get hauled off to jail?
No. No, he wasn’t. The police officer sat him up and listened to him explain why he was driving a stolen vehicle. You see…my dad’s truck had been stolen a few days earlier. He had reported it stolen, and then found it with the keys in it. He simply drove it home, forgetting to update the Albuquerque Police Department. The officer released him and he came inside.
Before I tell you the next story, I want you to know that I love police officers. I’ve had several in my family, currently have several as friends, and have always been grateful for their willingness to run to the danger for me and my family. I genuinely believe that most police officers are great, noble, brave, compassionate human beings who never get enough thanks.
However, in every position of authority, there will be people who abuse that power.
One such officer approached one of my dad’s company vehicles at a gas station last year. Yup – 2019. One of my dad’s employees was sitting in the passenger seat with his feet up on the dash, waiting for the driver of the truck to return. The officer proceeded to question the young man about what he was doing there, whose truck he was in, and the like. He demanded that he take off his sunglasses, which the young man did. The officer decided that his behavior was suspicious, and forced him out of the vehicle. He searched him and found nothing. He then told the young man he would need to come down to the police station with him. My dad’s employee asked if he could grab his sunglasses, as they were prescription glasses and he needed them to see. The officer denied his request. I do not know why, and neither does the young man, but he was held by APD for two days. Two days. He was then released because, you know…he’d done nothing wrong.
Oh…one fact I haven’t mentioned yet is that my dad is White, while his employee was Hispanic.
Yes, my dad and his employee likely encountered two different officers. But I am willing to bet right now that if you have not experienced being the target of racism yourself, you are thinking, “Well…I’ll bet that young man was doing a whole lot more than just sitting there for that officer to go through all that. He couldn’t have just been targeted because of how he looked. APD would never allow something like that.” I thought the same thing.
In Minneapolis, one police officer took 8 minutes to kill a man while three others stood by and watched him do it…in front of a crowd of witnesses. I can’t help but wonder how many times they’d gotten away with far worse than placing an innocent man in custody for 2 days.
I share this story NOT to incite more hate against police officers. Please refer to my earlier comments on my feelings and gratitude toward the vast majority of them.
I share this story because until recently, I believed this was one of those stories that was a very isolated incident. I felt awful for my dad’s employee, but figured he’d probably created the problem himself somehow. If not, I hoped he would get past it and be ok. I felt this way about many stories of racism I’d heard throughout my life. But what happens when we see every act of racial injustice as an “isolated incident”?
I share this story because, though many people in my Hispanic family have been heart-wrenching stories like the one above, I don’t. Until people get to know me, they don’t even know that my mom is full Hispanic. My skin is that light. And I believe that because I’ve never been the target of racial injustice, I have held a wrong belief that it just doesn’t happen that often these days. I believed that 99% of our nation abhorred racism and had pretty much eradicated it, at least in action if not in belief. When I would hear someone complaining that they’d been discriminated against, I was quick to question the claim’s validity. There’s a line from a song that’s been running through my head all week:
“Most don’t notice the system till it turns against them” – Propaganda in “Playing With Fire” by Kings Kaleidoscope
What system? A system in which one person can take something from someone and get away with it. One I truly have not noticed for my entire life. Why? It’s never aimed my direction.
I share this story to confess to you that I know and understand how hard it is to admit that the world looks so much different for others than it does for me, and that my assumptions have been wrong. It’s hard to stop talking and just listen, actively rejecting the biased opinions I’ve held that allow me to dismiss the speaker. It’s a challenge to receive information that runs counter to my life experience as truth. And now, as you see, I must confess my subconscious belief that my interpretation and experience of reality is the only one that exists. It’s hard, but we MUST do it.
I share this story because I’ve realized that it’s time for me to learn how to listen again. I thought I knew.
Bobby Jamieson, in an excellent article written for Christian Living, wrote the following this week:
“The killing of George Floyd is forcing a reckoning with the legacy of racism, both personal and institutional, in our nation’s past and present.”
We have a golden opportunity to learn right now; and by learning, to be part of the change and healing that we all desperately need. Our brothers and sisters who’ve been victims of racism are being encouraged and empowered to speak up and speak loud. I’m so grateful, and I hope you’ll open your notebooks and break out some fresh pens with me as they take us to school.
I share this story because as a Christian, I have a responsibility to encourage the discouraged (1 Thessalonians 5:11), defend the defenseless (Psalm 82:3), love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). This begins with listening…and not listening to judge; but listening to understand.
James 1:19b says, “…everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” I confess that I have never been any of these things. Not any of them. I’m committing to you that I am asking God for real transformation in these areas. The good news is that based on the Bible I believe to be God’s own communication to the world, there is so much hope ahead of us.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all thins new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:5
That throne…it’s special, and unlike any we’ve ever seen.
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne…”Psalm 89:14
God, whose throne is founded upon righteousness and justice, is making all things new. There is hope for my heart’s transformation, for right to rule the day, for justice to be brought…for real, lasting peace.
Let’s pursue these things together with Him.