They said not in our city—our police don’t have this problem, our troubles aren’t this bad, this isn’t the same here. After moving from Chicago to Saint Paul, I said that too. It couldn’t happen here. We just aren’t like that.
But that’s what we all say, until it happens.
Philando Castile was killed within miles of the church I serve, in the community where some of my students live. He graduated from the high school some attend. And yet, they live in different worlds—such is Saint Paul. Such is the Twin Cities. We are so disturbingly distant from one another.
I can’t make this post about a great way to be a youth minister right now. Because I don’t know how. But I can make an honest plea, to those of us tasked with serving children, and teaching them about the restorative and resurrective power of our God: let us not shy away from this today.
If you are like me, a white youth leader in a white church with a white youth group, I beg you, don’t ignore this.
Let us be filled with the strength and power that God gives us, to demonstrate how we must wade into conversations that hurt, that make us feel awful, that may be uncomfortable to have as white people. Let us show our students that we can bear that pain, and stand in it, because God is with us, calling us to become better—even as it hurts. Let us show our students that God gives us the strength to bear the terrible things we must learn from the death of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the five officers in Dallas. Let us not shy away from this. Let us allow this one to hurt. Let us bear this pain and mourn these deaths, and with the grace of God, let us allow it to mobilize us—a force for change.
Let us make disciples who cannot choose to ignore this. Let us make disciples who can interrogate the violence in our communities, the proliferation of firearms, the fear of black men. Let us make disciples who understand that some children live and die imagining that they might be shot today. Let us make disciples who can imagine and interrogate their own skepticism of black bodies. Let us make disciples who can respect and love the police in their communities enough to hold them accountable.
And let us ask the God we worship to drag us out of the hole we have dug ourselves, to hang onto us as we take off the blinders we have been wearing.
Because yes, it can happen here, too, wherever here may be—because the fear, the guns, the dehumanization of black people is present in every community in America.
And I pray, O God, that just as my home is now synonymous with the video of a blood soaked man dying while a gun remains trained on him, I pray, Almighty God, that my home can also be the city that shows the nation that we will not stand by. Please. Please, I beg that you turn us into instruments of your work, so that we can rise up as one unified body and demand: never, never again.