“Dear (Police), our skin color is not a weapon. You don’t have to be afraid of it.”-Sam White from Netflix series Dear White People
Hashtags: a seemingly innocuous symbol used on social media to help trend various topics and subjects. To Black America however, it has become the symbol of loss, hate, fear, of death. Why? Because it represents for us the murder of yet another unarmed Black image bearer of God by the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve us—Oscar Grant, Kendra James, Amadou Diallo, Ronald Madison, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Shereese Francis, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Walter Scott, Natasha McKenna, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Brendon Glenn, Samuel DuBose, Gregory Gunn, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile. Sadly, there are more names that can easily be added to this selection of names, and now add African-American 15-year-old Jordan Edwards to this infuriating ever growing list of Black bodies broken by the Police. His name is now a trending hashtag on social media platforms. Every Black man and woman knows that, because of the color of our skin, we could very well be the next trending hashtag online.
According to the New York Times, “The Police Department in Balch Springs, Texas, said Sunday that the officer, whose name has not been released, fired on a car carrying the teenager, Jordan Edwards, a freshman at Mesquite High School in nearby Mesquite, because the car was reversing down a street toward the officer in an “aggressive manner.” Yesterday however, police chief Jonathan Haber said that after reviewing the video footage of this weekend’s fatal shooting, it showed a different tale than given by the shooting officer. It showed that the vehicle the teenagers were driving was moving away from the officers as they approached and an officer shot into the car with a rifle, fatally striking Edwards in the head. Edwards family lawyer, Lee Merritt, said “There were no weapons involved; there was no aggressive behavior; these were not suspects…the lone motive they had for the murder was that the vehicle was being used as a weapon, and now that is no longer there.” The police were called to investigate a house party that Edwards and his friends “…(were) trying to leave (because) it had gotten out of control on Saturday.” In other words, the teens were looking to do the right thing by leaving a dangerous party. “They were simply leaving a party where they believed danger was and so I can’t wrap my mind around why an officer decided to shoot into the car” Merritt said. His death was ruled a homicide but, unsurprisingly to Black America, that doesn’t mean charges will be filed.
“A Loving Child with a Humble Spirit”
The Edwards family released their first public statement since the shooting Saturday night and described the slain 15-year-old as a “loving child with a humble and sharing spirit [who] had an indescribably strong bond with his family, especially his siblings.” Jordan was a student athlete at his high school where he played football, was a straight “A” student, and had a GPA of 3.5. Anyone can find this helpful information online but there’s one key piece of information missing from the description of Edwards. He was and still is imago Dei, made in the very image of God Himself. This wasn’t just another death of an unarmed Black teen, as tragic as that is. What makes this worse was that an innocent image bearer lost his life at the hands of a trigger-happy police officer who lied about the account and then sought to change his previous statement.
Black America’s Fear and Frustration
We know that more hashtags are likely to trend meaning more Black bodies will continue to fall and the officers responsible for their murders unlikely to be held accountable in this police state and nation we live in. So often, my people hear from White America when unjust police shootings take place, “Well if they simply did what they were told, this wouldn’t have happened” or “He was a thug and had a criminal record” as if that always justifies a person’s death. What’s even worse than this is the response heard from our White Christian brothers and sisters concerning these matters. Christian hip-hop artist Sho Baraka in his song “Maybe Both”, said it best when he sings, “I hear disturbing things come from so-called “Christians” / quick to justify a man’s death because of a criminal record or how a man dressed / thugs I guess / only perfect people get grace / If that was the Lord’s way / there’ll be no one in the faith / true flaw / America kills and hides behind the law.” Yet, this time, the Black teen slain wasn’t doing anything wrong and had no prior criminal record. He was in the act of doing right and for that act, his reward from the police was a bullet in his head, taking his life and sending him into eternity. Romans 13:3 says, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” This verse seems to be applicable only to White America however for even when we do right, as in Jordan Edward’s case, there is still reason to be afraid. This is our fear; that even when doing good, we are still harassed by the police. This is our frustration; that no matter what we do or how we present ourselves to this still very racist nation we call America, we still will get shot down and those responsible not held accountable for our murders.
Legendary rapper Tupac sang in his song “Changes”, “Cops give a damn about a negro / pull the trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero.” Ta-Nehisi Coates, a brilliant African-American author and social commentator, wrote, “And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction springs from a foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” Our blood traded for their pension—an unholy transaction. Police Departments of America, our skin is not a weapon and you do not need to be afraid of us. We are unarmed and yet, because of our skin color, we are armed in your eyes and minds. This needs to stop. This is Black America’s fear, pain, and frustration.
#Police, #Black skin is not a weapon and you do not need to be afraid of us. This is our frustration.—@lamont_english
Black America’s Strength
Our strength as a collective has always come from one place alone. Through the history of our oppression in this nation, our strength to love, forgive, and continue rising stronger and more resilient is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Even now, the family of Jordan Edwards forgives the officer who wrongly took their son from them. What strength is this? What love? It is easy to hate and keep a grudge but hard to forgive and love. That is a supernatural ability given to those who follow God. Black author Zakiya Jackson said on her Twitter page, “I am amazed by Black people. We keep living. Loving. Building. Dreaming.” She is right. Black America, I love you—us. To be Black and Christian in America is to be strong and loving in the face of oppression. It is to love our oppressor and pray for him all the while fighting against systems of oppression and seeking biblical change. It is to seek, as the Edwards family stated, that they want justice for their son. God, through the prophet Isaiah, told His people in chapter 1, verse 17, to “learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed…” God tells us the same thing today. What we want in this case is biblical justice. Black America, continue to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Yes, forgive and love our oppressors, the police. Yet, let us all continue to fight for true and lasting change in the social realm of our nation for this is right in the sight of God. We are Jordan Edwards, a Black brother and image bearer of God. No dear brother, we will never forget you. We love you. And we will see you again one day. Black America, let us march on in the strength and grace of our Lord Jesus working towards that day where cops will learn war against us no more.