“Late one night several years ago, I was getting out of my car on an empty midtown Atlanta street when a man standing fifteen feet away pointed a gun at me and threatened to ‘blow my head off.’ …Panicked thoughts raced through my mind as the threat was repeated. I quickly realized that my first instinct to run was misguided and dangerous, so I fearfully raised my hands in helpless, terrifying submission to the barrel of a handgun. I tried to stay calm and begged the man not to shoot me …I knew that my survival required careful, strategic thinking. I had to stay calm. …A young, bearded black man dressed casually in jeans, I didn’t look like a lawyer with a Harvard Law School degree to most people; I just looked like a black man in America. I had spent much of my life in the church. I graduated from a Christian college and was steeped in Dr. King’s teachings of nonviolence, but none of that mattered to the Atlanta police officer threatening to kill me. To that officer, I looked like a criminal, dangerous and guilty. …That night in Atlanta, I [had been] sitting in front of my apartment, in my parked, beat-up Honda Civic for ten or fifteen minutes listening to music after a long day of work. I had apparently attracted someone’s attention simply by sitting in the car too long, and the police were summoned. Getting out of my car to explain to the police officer that this was my home and that everything was okay is what prompted him to pull his weapon and threaten to shoot me. …[He and his partner] threw me on the back of the vehicle, searched my car illegally, and kept me on the street for nearly fifteen humiliating minutes…. When no crime could be discovered, I was told by the police officers to consider myself lucky. Although it was said as a taunt and threat, they were right: I was lucky; I survived. Sometimes the presumption of guilt results in young black men being killed. From Ferguson, Missouri, to Charleston, South Carolina, communities are suffering the lethal consequences of our collective silence about racial injustice. The church should be a source of truth in a nation that has lost its way. As the dominant religion in the United States, Christianity is directly implicated when we Christians fail to speak more honestly about the legacy of racial inequality.” Bryan Stevenson
“You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”
Moving From Head to Heart
- Would you like to be a black male where you live?
- Is your religion guilty of “collective silence?” …are you?
Abba, break the chains that bind us.
For More: America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis