Philando Castile and the Miscarriage of Justice

There are signs of actual hope in the case of Philando Castile’s death. In the few days since the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting of Philando Castile: 1) Protests here in the Cities have been vocal and noticed, but no “huge” incidents to get white people upset too quickly, and 2) I have run into 3 places on the web calling the case a miscarriage of justice that surprise me.  Continue reading “Philando Castile and the Miscarriage of Justice”

Lament — Philando Castile

Lament isn’t always theologically correct. Lament isn’t always nice and neat.

Lament isn’t always soft… or done in time to get to lunch.

Lament is brutal because the soul has been assaulted. It is a crying out in pain because in that moment… in that time… there is nothing else to do.

Lament is personal. Lament is communal.

America doesn’t do lament. But we need to.

Lament is deep in my soul because “the system” failed the family of Philando Castile this week. Lament is deep because among the friends I have there is a sense of, “Here we go again.” And “reason” doesn’t help. “Statistics” don’t help.

The soul has been assaulted.

Lament needs a space in our community. The hurt needs to fly out of the soul and those nearby need to stand aside and let it happen. Instead… we judge. We judge because we think that’s not what WE would do… or a “civilization” would do.

Black or white, lament needs to fly out of the soul and allow the pain to have a way to exit. And it won’t make sense a lot of the time.

I was with another family this week who suffered the loss of a teenage girl. There were a lot of “F” bombs. A lot of bad theology. And it was loud.

And I wept with them. I sat with them and let the soul cry out.

There are feelings we have in the moment that ultimately may or may not be true… but in that moment have a sense of truth. The soul has been assaulted.

My soul has been assaulted in a tragic loss this week. My soul has been assaulted in a tragic court decision.

And in this moment, I am at a loss to say, “Trust the system.” In this moment… I do not “trust the system.” The system keeps failing minority communities. And, quite honestly, that system may end up failing the very law enforcement community it was designed to try and help.

In this moment I am not going to say, “Now… protest nice, y’all.” Not in this case. Philando Castile was compliant that night… and he is dead. A bad cop (and that doesn’t reflect on the meaning that he can also be a “good person”) was ill-prepared for the job and he is home. And free.

The soul has been assaulted. And lament needs to flow.

For now… let it. There isn’t a “right way” for this to happen.


We must do better — ending racism

The events of last week have left me drained emotionally. My soul is tired.

I was at a prayer vigil last night at a Methodist church and one of the pastors leading the prayer service asked, “How is your soul?” He paused, then said, “My soul is tired.”

My soul is tired because I knew something had changed in me watching the deaths… watching the deaths … of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In that change, I had a glimmer of hope: maybe this changes more of us as white pastors. 

As I’ve watched the foolish arguments unfold over the past few days, I’ve only grown more tired. Maybe it won’t change. Maybe we’ll still make our qualified statements… “If they just did what the cops tell them” … “If they just did this” … “Philando seemed to be a good man, BUT” …

My soul is tired.

The prayer vigil I attended last night prayed for the victims… all of them… and they also offered up prayers for the St. Anthony police officer who shot Philando Castile.

The prayer time included a walk to the St. Anthony Police Station. It was a walk of silent prayer. Hundreds walked the few blocks from the church up to the station. The leaders went to invite police officer on duty to join us in prayer. There wasn’t a response, but the group prayed.

A couple of days after some protests had turned violent in St. Paul, it was deeply moving to see a powerful prayer walk, prayers offered in repentance and healing, and all done with quiet demeanor. Beautiful calm.

My soul is tired.

My soul must find its strength in the Lord. Out of his strength, I find a way to stay awake to these issues. I don’t want to be lulled to sleep again.

Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for my silence. Forgive me for my inaction. I have been passionate about many other issues, but this one has been dormant. Forgive me! Let my soul find rest in you alone. 

Open my ears to stories of those oppressed. Forgive me for the “Yeah… but” statements I have thought in my mind or spoken out loud. Let me LISTEN. Let me weep. Let me FEEL. 

Lord, let me ACT. Let me advocate. Let me be a voice. Let me give aid in whatever way HELPS. 

Let your Kingdom come… here… now. In power. Amen. 


Injustice and inaction

These words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ring in my head:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

With the shooting of Philando Castile on Wednesday night, seeing his girlfriend’s video that she bravely took as the event was happening, listening all Thursday morning to protests and speeches, then going to a protest in front of the governor’s mansion Thursday afternoon and hearing the pain in protestors’ voices, I have my own confession.

I am the squishy moderate.

Listening to the different protestors speak yesterday I could make the same exact arguments as to “methods” and how I might disagree with what some said. But it was out of grief. It was out of anger. Out of fear.

Let me use these words with clarity: what we have is systemic racism. We have so much work to do and I cannot sit back and criticize certain words or methods any more. I must advocate. I must speak. I must join in with those who struggle in a way that helps. 

The plain thought from everyone I heard on Thursday, including Governor Mark Dayton, was this conclusion: If Philando Castile had been white and his family had been white, Philando Castile would be alive.

There is no getting around that thought. Even Governor Dayton didn’t politically qualify his thoughts on the matter.

A four year old girl watched her mom’s boyfriend get shot. A four year old girl sat in the back of a police cruiser with her mom in handcuffs. A four year old girl comforted her mother as she began to weep over the situation, saying, “It’s okay, mommy. I’m here.”

A four year old  black girl watched that happen. A four year old white girl would not be in that situation on Thursday morning.

Having that thought finally out in the open… even spoken by the governor… identifies a systemic problem. We have so much work to do. And work we must do.

I am so sorry for my silence. Please forgive me.