Ephesians 4:26 as well as Psalm 4:4 tell us to “Be angry and do not sin.” I have to be honest and share that I am having serious trouble with that right now. Let me first state that I love the nation in which I reside. I still get
choked-up teary whenever I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner,” whether it be at a ballgame, school assembly or any other place. I also find myself trying to sort through my emotions and search for answers to what ails this great nation.
In the spring of 1992, I was a senior in high school when the when the officers who brutally attacked Rodney King were acquitted on the assault charges in the incident. This verdict set off days of rioting in Los Angeles and was widely covered in the national media. At the time, I found myself asking, “Why are they so angry?” I knew that the verdict was unjust, but growing up as a black male in this nation I had become accustomed to injustice. That’s one problem. The fact that I had come to expect being mistreated, put-upon, troubled on every side, persecuted, and cast down is telling about how those who are not white are
per misperceived in the eyes of much of the white population. This is not as simple as the “the MAN holding a brother down” narrative that any cat on the corner will give you a diatribe on if you’re willing to listen. By growing up in America in the time I did, I expected different treatment because of my ethnicity. I am sure that the opinions I shared were not unlike those of others who shared my same skin color. I knew the frustrations of those who were in the streets of Los Angeles, yet something seemed different. I knew that there was something more at play here.
As we would later find out, there was rampant police corruption and a long history of racial profiling involved in how the police in Los Angeles were enforcing the laws of their community. As we would also find out after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, a similar pattern of unjust practices was at work at the hands of the police and courts in Ferguson, MO. Now, and then, I understood. Their frustrations weren’t just the result of being black in America and facing the microagressions that result from our place in this country. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” The injustices that the black citizens of Los Angeles, then and Ferguson, Missouri, more recently, came to a flash point with the beating of Rodney King and the killing of Michael Brown. The people had simply had enough.
This brings me to the recent grand jury into the death of Eric Garner at the hand of police in the Staten Island neighborhood of Tompkinsville. This SEEMED to be a clear cut case of murder and it appeared that the officers responsible would be charged with murder. The grand jury decided differently. And this is where I am having trouble with that anger. Garner was placed in a chokehold and was repeatedly heard saying “I can’t breathe” during his arrest. I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE! The medical examiner in the case ruled that Eric Garner’s death was a homicide as a result of the chokehold and…
So I’m angry, and I’m tired. I’m tired of living in a country where I have to explain my existence. I’m tired of the assumption that I’m up to no good. I’m sick and tired of the inhumanity.