No Excuse for Tolerating Racial Injustice
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. John 15:22
Like most of you, I’ve spent considerable time over the last two weeks looking at my own views on race, law enforcement, and justice. As a child, I was taught to respect law enforcement. As an adult though, I’ve made friends with those who’ve taught me that I’ll simply never know what it’s like to be a black man who’s pulled over at night by the police. Still, if I’m honest, when it comes to news stories of inappropriate behavior by law enforcement, my bias probably still lies on the side of the officer.
When I hear a story of force being used, it’s simply my first instinct to ask what the individual did to provoke the incident. This doesn’t necessarily pertain to skin color. I recently saw a video of a white protestor who was pushed to the ground and knocked out. As I watched the pool of blood forming around his head, my first thought was, What did he do to threaten that officer?
I don’t believe that I must repent for my respect of law enforcement. I do, however, need to admit that I may turn a blind eye to racial injustice because it doesn’t affect me. Just like there are physicians who’ve done bad things (finger pointed at me), there are police officers who’ve done bad things.
When I first saw the video of that Minneapolis officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died, I was shocked. Still, I wanted to know what led up to it. In reading, I found that George Floyd had drugs in his system. Fortunately for me though, we don’t execute people for abusing drugs. What then led to this police officer’s actions? In watching the rest of the video evidence it’s tough to come up with any defense and I must admit the ugly truth. That officer did a horrible thing and a profound injustice has occurred. I’ve been shown the truth and I can no longer hide from it.
In today’s passage, Jesus taught this principle. He said that if those who refused to follow him had never known him, it would be excusable. Once he came though, revealing himself, they became responsible for the truth. Because they knew the truth and still followed the lie, they were guilty.
This is where I find myself. I’ve been shown, without much doubt, a horrible offense committed by a law enforcement officer. I cannot defend that. I also, cannot simply ignore it because it doesn’t affect me. I’m not responsible for prosecuting the officer. I can, however, call out the injustice. I can use what voice I have to address the issue. I can protest prejudice and inequality, and I can do so without condemning all law enforcement officers or condoning rioting and looting.
People do bad things. Even people I’ve respected. When that truth is revealed to me, I cannot ignore it. If I do, then I’ve become part of the problem and I’m complicit in the injustice. Once I know the truth, I’m responsible for it.