It has been a hard day. Watching Minneapolis burn on the news has added to the feeling that our country’s troubles are just beginning. I have been thinking about racial issues for a long time now. Living in Texas has opened my eyes to the reality of the need for tolerance, an appreciation for diversity, and the unique challenges of a highly specialized and interdependent society when it comes to race.
I want to see the Democratic Party as advocates for minorities and particularly African Americans, but that isn’t what I see. If the Democratic Party truly wanted equality for African Americans, I think more progress would have been made by now. In fact, I see the Democrats exploiting the African American voting block for their own purposes. They expect their votes and Biden said as much in his latest gaffe when he said that “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” I plan to vote for Biden and the Democrats in the November election, assuming it happens. I wish he hadn’t said what he did and I wish it didn’t reveal what is clear to me. The Democrats exploit the racial divide. They want African Americans to believe all non-Democrats are their enemy; that their party is the only place for them. Unfortunately, Trump has done much to fuel African American suspicions about the Republican Party. More than ever, the Democratic Party seems like the only option for people of color. The big problem with this “white Republicans are the enemy” strategy is that although it helps the Democratic Party unite their caucus, it does little to help African Americans improve their situation. Democrats give them false hope with promises they can never keep. That false hope turns to cynicism and resentment when African Americans help elect Democrats who then cannot or will not deliver on their promises. And yet, the Republican Party has never held much appeal for them. With the rise of “compassionate conservatism” and the RNCs 2013 autopsy, there was hope that African Americans might have another party to choose from. Now with the rise of Trumpism, there is little appeal for them and much to alienate them on the right.
So, it is likely that little progress will be made for African Americans in this country. The powerful in both parties are content with them where they are at. The occasional outbreak of riots and the burning of a few buildings is unlikely to change anything permanently. African American outrage will continue to simmer beneath the surface, fueled by the reality of their underprivileged position. That outrage will burst into violence when the inevitable viral videos of police brutality against their most vulnerable members surface; a reminder that they have been mistreated and will continue to be mistreated.
And on the other side of this miserable coin, we have the police. We don’t pay the average officer enough to support a family, then we demand that officers remain professional at all times even when confronted daily with the worst of our society. Where do they put all the trauma and chaos? What do they do when the compartment containing all the disrespect and pain bursts? Who suffers? The marginalized. The weak. The voiceless. Those unfortunate members of our society who can be hurt by someone with a little authority and no one will care. People like George Floyd; a black ex-convict trying to get his life together. That officer knew the moment he got the call that George Floyd’s life didn’t matter. He could take out his anger and hostility on him and people would look the other way. How many other victims were there? How many other times had this scene, or one like it, played out for this officer and he never had any consequences? More times than I would like to imagine.
I’m not trying to defend what those officers did. Just because it happens often, doesn’t make it any more acceptable. George Floyd’s right to life was taken by officers who were sworn to protect and defend him. His life does matter! Those officers deserve the punishments that are coming to them. But punishment alone isn’t going to fix it. Punishment may help in some ways, but it will make it worse in other ways. It may increase the resentment and anger of officers who feel misunderstood and unfairly judged. It may encourage them to band together and defend one another against outsiders who don’t understand the difficulties they face. Law Enforcement officers are vulnerable to Trump and his flattery of them. He tells them they are justified in acting on their worst impulses. He tells them that he alone understands their burdens and the anger they feel. He will manipulate their emotions and their hostility to turn them against their superior officers and the elected officials of their cities. When he calls for them to fight for him, will they follow his orders? If they don’t sense that we the people care about them, will they fight for us, or for him?
The ultimate solution to the larger problem is not punishment, it is empathy. The solution is more listening and understanding. The answer is self-reflection and personal responsibility. The answer is the Savior. We must stop listening to the most divisive voices among us. We must start listening to Him who is Mighty to Save. We can have compassion toward the African Americans. We can stop the cycle of exploitation and seek real and permanent solutions to the challenges they face instead of empty promises. We can provide and encourage mental health services for all of our police officers. We can create a society where trauma is acknowledged and addressed within law enforcement and within the larger community. We can better understand and appreciate the unique burdens our law enforcement officers carry and help them cope in more healthy ways. We can empower them to be worthy of the honor their position demands. Only then will both groups be able to build relationships of trust and cooperation.
But we Americans seem determined to destroy everything we have worked so hard to build. We elected a horrible human being as our leader and our hearts, rather than reaching out to the Savior, are turning cold. We have turned our hearts away from charity, forgiveness, and empathy. Instead of turning the other cheek, we punch back ten times harder. Instead of a soft answer turning away wrath, we shout more loudly and are heard less. Instead of sound judgment and wisdom, we gorge on conspiracy theories and listen to liars with flattering words.
My heart breaks for my country and the suffering that surrounds us. It is not too late for us to repent and change our path. If we don’t, we are sure to destroy ourselves.
Come Unto Jesus
Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden,
Careworn and fainting, by sin oppressed.
He’ll safely guide you unto that haven
Where all who trust him may rest.
Come unto Jesus; He’ll ever heed you,
Though in the darkness you’ve gone astray.
His love will find you and gently lead you
From darkest night into day.
Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you,
If you in meekness plead for his love.
Oh, know you not that angels are near you
From brightest mansions above?
Come unto Jesus from ev’ry nation,
From ev’ry land and isle of the sea.
Unto the high and lowly in station,
Ever he calls, “Come to me.”