All too often, difference causes us to retreat from one another and react in ways that further divide us. An African American man runs from a white police officer in a blue uniform because he fears what might happen to him when in custody. A white police officer pulls his gun to shoot and kill an unarmed man of color because he fears for his life, as a recent TIME magazine article notes (“Will America Now Challenge the Standard Police Narrative?”).
Whether or not we think the fears are well-grounded, they are real. The only way we can really remove fear is to foster healthy relationships involving trust, as Jeffrey Harley, Education Chaplain of Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in inner city Philadelphia, PA claims. Chaplain Harley encourages pastors and police to work together to establish trust in communities. We need to move beyond the fear of color to the love of color.
We need to police the fear of color for the sake of building beloved community. Among other things, this will entail community policing. Chaplain Harley and I agree with Russell Simmons, an American business magnate and peace activist who calls for community policing. Community policing involves the cultivation of relationships. As I noted in an earlier blog post, Simmons calls for the following: “policing needs to come from the community; police sensitivity training is needed (from the police toward the community and the community toward the police); and policing needs to represent the ethnic demographics in a community.” We couldn’t agree more.
Mr. Simmons is the co-founder of Def Jam Records. I would assume that as someone working in the world of music, Simmons knows a thing or two about art. No doubt, he understands that difference does not always divide. Novel and beautiful developments in art and music often involve the presence of difference. So argues Pastor Jimi Calhoun, Lead Pastor at Bridging Austin, a Reconciling Community in Austin, Texas. Pastor Calhoun is an accomplished musician and author of the excellent new book, The Art of God: Reflections on Music, Diversity, and the Beauty in You. Great art and music do not discount tragedy, but often incorporate it into the drama with a redemptive hue or tone that defies and blows past the barriers we impose.
It takes time and skill to cultivate relationships between people of different colors and tones to create beautiful communities of love that function as performing arts. It is worth it, as daunting as it might appear, to move past the psychological and cultural barriers bound up with the fear of difference. So, let’s learn how to police the fear of color and celebrate the love of racial diversity and harmony in community.
See my post titled, “Framing Ferguson: If Black Lives Don’t Matter, No One’s Life Matters.” There I reference Simmons’ interview with CNN in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.