We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

Statement from 8th Day Center for Justice on the killing of unarmed black men

8th Day Center for Justice, a coalition representing over 30 congregations of religious sisters, brothers and priest, is angered by the killing of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man on August 9 in Ferguson, MO. Even though the police tried to show (through the release of a video) that he might have stolen cigars, this does not excuse the use of lethal force by a police officer. The law holds that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. When will police officers and security systems throughout this country be held accountable for the use of lethal force on unarmed black men?

“Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part it is only the external appearances which have changed.” “Brothers and Sisters to Us.” National Conference on Catholic Bishops Pastoral on Racism, November, 1979

Ferguson is not an aberration. It is the undeclared norm. Eric Garner in New York City died in July from a choke hold a police officer used to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. Video of the incident records Mr. Garner saying “I can’t breathe.” (New York Post, August 25, 2014) John Crawford III died Aug. 5 after Beavercreek police were informed of an armed man at a Dayton-area Walmart. He was not armed– he had a pellet gun with him, which he had picked up in the store’s toy department. (International Business Times, August 11, 2014) The list goes on and on.

In June, there was a report to police about men carrying automatic rifles at a Target in Dallas, TX. After police approached the white men and discussed the situation, they realized there was nothing they could do because of open carry laws. Not surprisingly, the police did not shoot these white men. (Dallas Morning News, July 4, 2014)

According to an NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet here are some notable facts:

  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African Americans and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008 even though they make up approximately one quarter of the US populations
  • African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession.
  • 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites.

What do we do?

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

African Americans did not create the racist system that exists. White Americans did and continue to carry it out. As white allies, we are called to partner with our black brothers and sisters to demand changes to this system.

“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.” Ella Baker (1964)

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