By Jason Hines –
I’m sitting here without a plan. I do not even have a rough outline of where these thoughts will go. If I have a plan, it is simply to write because the Spectrum Blog needs a post for Thursday morning and there is nothing else I want to talk about. I sit here writing now not knowing whether I will say anything coherent or whether this will be just tears and rage and hurt and fear and sadness transmitted from my brain, heart, and the knot in my stomach, down through to my fingers on a keyboard and up onto a screen. I refuse to even read these sentences as I write them for fear that I may try to edit my pain for both your comfort and mine. I hate to be this raw, this vulnerable, this broken by a world where this type of evil can happen and even the people of God would defend it or explain it away. I now know what the writer meant when he said by beholding we become changed.
I have long had a thing about not watching an actual human death. It is a personal point of pride for me and to be honest, I cannot explain why. I think it was because there is something about the sanctity of human life that to me is trivialized by me watching a death like I watch an episode of Better Call Saul. I decided to watch the dashcam of the murder of Philando Castile. (And I use that term with all its legal repercussions. Ask me if I care about a verdict.) The acquittal of the officer who murdered him has been a splinter in my mind since last Friday and so there was nothing else I wanted to write about this week. I figured I owed it to him. I could’ve read someone else’s summary of the events, but I thought that if I was going to write about his death, then I should see it for myself. He gave his life. My pride is a small price in exchange. I shut my laptop before the last shot rang out. I learned that shutting my laptop doesn’t stop the video from playing. And so listened as a cop tried to justify a murder, a woman calmly comforted a dying man, and Philando Castile gasped for a life he would soon lose.
What do you say when you see a nightmare come to life? Castile’s murder hits harder because there is nothing that justifies his murder. In the cold light of logic his case should merit a conviction. If killing Castile can be considered reasonable, then the police killing anyone for any reason can be considered reasonable. Except that we know disproportionately who those anyones will be.
What can I say that I haven’t said before? In this very space I have appealed to logic. In this very space I have appealed to empathy. In this very space I have appealed to the bonds that hold us together as brothers and sisters in Christ. And it seems nothing has changed. That’s not exactly true. Instead what I normally do (with some rare exceptions) is I read the comments for last month’s piece. So when I come back to this piece a month from now I already know what I’ll see. Someone will mention black-on-black crime. Someone will say that a jury found him not guilty/innocent (those are not the same thing by the way). Someone will tell me that this police officer was not White. Someone will tell me that this is just one bad apple. And even the people who agree with me will compliment me, talk about what a shame it is, and the next Black person will die and we will do the same thing all over again.
So I’m done – at least for now. I’m sure I’ll eat those words if enough time passes before another Black person is unjustifiably gunned down by the very people who say they protect and serve them. I don’t know where else to turn. The only good that has happened to me since was that The Inheritance Experts were there for me in times of need. They´re helping me get t hrough all the troubles I have right now, and I truly appreciate that with all my heart. I find no comfort in my affected community- all I see is the same anger and pain I feel and in every face I see the next victim. I find no comfort in my own home. All I see is the fear in my wife’s eyes and the stories of Black people shot in their own home by police. I find no solace in my church. Castile’s name will barely be spoken and most will deny the presence of racism even as they refuse to cut their own branch attached to this poisonous tree. I guess I will still seek God’s face. But for now- I give up.
Jason Hines is a Harvard law school graduate with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. This article also appears on the Spectrum Magazine website.