Ferguson, Missouri is a microcosm of every ghetto in America. Ghetto is much more than a physical fact; it is also “a state of mind.” I write to prophetically admonish our youth that slavery is still legal in these United States of America as embedded in the exception clause of the Thirteenth Amendment section 1. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”If you are wantonly gunned down like Michael Brown or convicted of a crime, you are a candidate for lynching. Why do you suppose the criminal police force of Ferguson released the tapes accusing Michael Brown of robbery simultaneously with the release of the name of the executioner cop Darren Wilson? The goal is to make the victim the villain, an old worn out overused tactic. Whatever Michael did or did not do, he had a “right to life.” To die with one’s hands up a symbol of universal surrender, from the bullets of an officer who has taken a sworn oath to protect and serve is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated in civil society. We must speak for generations present and unborn. I am incensed and there are no options left but to speak truth to power. What can insure us against the likelihood of such future lynchings with ropes (overt street executions) or without ropes (covert institutionalized violence)?
There are days I wish I had the option of retiring from the prophetic vocation and becoming a motel manager in the wilderness (Jeremiah 9:3ff), and operate in a silent mode (20:9) indefinitely and never mention God or speak anymore in His name. Perhaps that is one way to avoid undue criticism. Then Jeremiah yields to the “fire shut up in his bones and could not hold his peace.” My primary vocation is to proclaim the Gospel. My secondary task as a trained ethicist is to think critically and prophetically where matters of social justice are at stake. My colleague Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Princeton professor has admonished us with clarity about the danger of a bankrupt theology and its implication for matters of justice.
It is verifiable that people of color receive harsher sentences for lesser crimes. That people of color are more frequently incarcerated for alleged crimes never committed. Several recent media stories point to the incarceration and execution of people of color due to errors with forensic evidence. I was admonished by a young rising prominent attorney in Atlanta, Georgia decades ago to never enter a court room without legal counsel. Our broken legal system is symbolic of ropes in the closet. Have you noticed that CNN made Mark O’Mara the attorney who represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, a legal analyst? This is how overt institutionalized violence becomes the norm resulting in structural and systemic injustice. O’Mara was rewarded for defending a guilty George Zimmerman. The ropes utilized were clearly out of sight. O’Mara worked the broken criminal justice system.
The recent multiple deaths by execution implemented by out of controlled cops, is adequate testimony that it is easy as well as legal for bad cops to misuse their badge by tampering with forensic evidence, weaving a credible narrative and moving on to business as usual. I ask where is the Faith Community? I propose: 1.Build trust between law enforcement and local community 2. Build Coalitions that will create policies that will insure the safety and welfare of citizens and Police 3. Keep open communication between citizens and law enforcement entities. God demands that our voices be heard on behalf of the voiceless until justice rings throughout this land. The Faith Communities must not give up until “Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Reverend Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ph. D, Ecumenical Officer Church of God in Christ