By Pastor Michael McBride,
Scripture tells us that the weeping may last the night but joy comes in the morning. I sure hope so, because my heart is broken. Michael Brown is one of too many men and boys of color targeted and dehumanized by a system that operates as though some people are worth more than others.
What do I say to the young man from my congregation who, with tears in his eyes, said, “Pastor Mike, when you go home at night, and you are not around, who will protect me? Because when I call the police, they will not protect me. When I call the church, they are not open to help me. When I go to the schools, they will not welcome me.”
What do you say when the world around you is crumbling and no one is paying attention? When no one seems to care? When in the eyes of too many you don’t matter? When the pain and problems of people make them invisible?
You stand up and fight. We fight and organize because as a mentor told me “Disorganized truth will not defeat an organized lie!” And we believe that all people, regardless of race, have inherent value, and deserve to live free from violence and from fear that the very people sworn to protect them. This is TRUTH.
We fight for the Trayvon Martins, Renisha McBrides, the Jordan Davises, Luis Rodriguezes, the Eric Garners, the John Crawfords, Andy Lopezes, the Ezell Fords and the Michael Browns. We fight — even when the cameras aren’t there — because we are them.
No one can be invisible. We must act in ways that reinforce to us, and to everyone around us that the problems of the black community are not ours to solve alone, just as the problems of the poor and marginalized are not theirs to solve alone. We are all human beings created in the image of God and are called to bear one another’s burdens, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
On the evening of March 9, 1999, in San Jose, while driving home from Bethany Bible College, I was racially profiled, physically and sexually assaulted and detained by two white police officers.
After a harrowing hour, I was released with no apology or citation. I was left only with the explanation that this is what they need to do to get home to their families. The rage of being manhandled by strangers is still an experience of terror I have to choose to not overwhelm me in my times of despair and anger. My faith, my family, my ministry and my sense of purpose serve as a compass to re-direct my passions when they skew and go awry. But my body still is flooded with emotions I find hard to control whenever I view the videos of brutality, hear the stories of death, or perform the funerals of youth gone too early.
I’m not the only one familiar with being dehumanized and brutalized at the hands of law enforcement. In moments like these, all of us could give up and give in to the lie that we are what they think we are, just another thug or criminal. Or accept that this is an inevitable reality for the rest of our days. But, instead, we must choose to lean on hope and a vision of this world and our lives that are not constructed by the hands nor the hearts of fallen humanity. We belong to God. And we must choose to stand up and to say enough.
We will all be judged by what we do when the cameras are turned off, and people’s rage dissipates and attention returns to our regularly scheduled programming.
Can we leave the people of Ferguson stronger and empowered with self-determination?
When a police force uses tear gas against unarmed civilians and arrests members of the media, the chief has to go.
When a mayor defends police marching against the very people they’re supposed to protect, saying “I can’t second-guess these officers,” he’s got to go.
This is why I am took the invitation of youth and clergy and moved from my pulpit to the streets of Ferguson to help build power and capacity so they can stand up. I challenge everyone, especially people of faith, particularly my Christian brothers and sisters from privileged churches of all races and backgrounds to respond to an invitation.
It may be in Ferguson…it may be in Chicago…it may be right outside the four walls of your building…it may be in the jails…it may be in the neighborhood…it may be in the office of the police chief, mayor, Governor, Congress or the president! Log off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Take the invitation and show up!
Choose to show that you are living free by physically showing up in the vulnerability of injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says the measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of convenience, but where they are in times of controversy. Where are you? Are you free? Do you measure up? Will you stand up?
Stand up. Stand for our kids who can’t defend themselves. Stand up with our kids for the opportunity to succeed.
When our brothers and sisters call, answer, because it is up to us to ensure that when young people wake up to go to school, they can learn and be successful; and when they return home at night, they feel safe and free from violence and trauma.
Stand up and demand: “This stops today. Today, we march to ensure all of our children — white, black, brown, yellow, red, blue or green — are not criminalized or dehumanized but are able to live free as valued beings, with equal opportunity and the full promise of American citizenship.”
Make the commitment: We won’t stop marching when the cameras leave and the world moves on. We won’t stop marching until justice comes down like water, righteousness like a mighty stream and all God’s children can live free.
Pastor Michael Mcbride is Director, PICO National Network’s LIVE FREE Campaign
Follow Pastor Michael McBride on Twitter:www.twitter.com/pastormykmac