Another Police Shooting: Who’s to Blame? Maybe Me.

Another Police Shooting: Who’s to Blame? Maybe Me. September 20, 2016
"Woman with a Gun" by Sofia Sforza
“Woman with a Gun” by Sofia Sforza

But who should I be angry with?

But who should I be angry with? Who has sacrificed this son to a demon by shedding his innocent blood? Many people are blaming broader police culture or ongoing racism in our society (or both). Others may think only the shooting officer is to blame and to let things go at that. Too many — particularly those who are quick to criticize movements like Black Lives Matter — are conspicuously silent by not calling out injustice.

When we see the results of structural racism, it’s easy to respond in one of two ways: 1) to lash out in anger at “the other,” whether the other is the police or the Black Lives Matter movement, or 2) to isolate ourselves from it by blaming one shooter or one guy who lives on the other side of town.

But when it happens in your city to someone even tangentially in your social circle, you lose the luxury of either response. You have to confront the evil with grace.

The Catechism gives a name to the evil we must confront:

Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin” (CCC 1869).

This is frustrating because it indicates there may be social sin in a society without an individual sinner being responsible for it. We don’t have to be openly or consciously racist in order to be affected by structural racism. We may just be blind. It’s one of the many effects original sin still has on us.

You and I didn’t shoot somebody last weekend, but we may well have contributed to structures of sin that result in situations like this.

To end the sinful structure of racism and the injustice it causes, we must first rid ourselves of it. Thomas Merton, writing about war, suggests something applicable to this situation: “And instead of hating the people you think are war makers, hate the appetites and the disorders in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things first in your own self, not in another.”

People who know more than I do will investigate this killing, hopefully in a way that promotes justice. Others wiser than me will promote better relations between the police and the Black community.

But I can still hate the evil in myself that contributes to these situations.

To that end, let me suggest an examination of conscience for white Christians and particularly Catholics:

  • How segregated is my church or parish? If my church is largely white, do I at least know when confession times are or when adoration takes place at a predominantly Black parish?
  • Have I tensed up when seeing a large Black guy?
  • When someone talks about the lingering effects of racism, have I made a point of talking about how colorblind I am — as if that makes up for the fact that others are not colorblind?
  • Have I avoided certain parts of town just because I heard they were “bad”?
  • Have I done a double take when I see an interracial couple, especially when the man is Black?

I’ll be honest: at one point or another, I’ve done almost all of these. Once we have identified these parts of ourselves that we may not like, we can cooperate with the grace of God and begin to difficult, painful process of rooting them out. That will lead us to some uncomfortable places, but we must follow the Gospel wherever it goes.

If you’re in Tulsa, a vigil for Terence will be held at Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1228 W. Apache Street (between Gilcrease Museum Road and the Expressway), from 6-8pm on Wednesday, September 21st.

Courtesy of Charles Beard
Courtesy of Charles Beard

Charles D. Beard is a husband, father of three, deacon candidate, and Catholic Worker. He is a fifth generation Okie and has lived in or near Tulsa, Okla. almost his whole life.

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