Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lisa Robinson ― Four Things to Consider After the Police Shootings

Lisa is a member of Town North Presbyterian Church (PCA) and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. She is also a non-profit professional, anti-poverty advocate, and writer at

As a black woman and Reformed Christian, the past week has been rough. As I’ve tried to process the shootings of black men by police officers, compounded by the sniper who took out five police officers where I live in Dallas, I find the Internet is full of opinions about how we should process these tragic events.

I’ve noticed two extremes. First are those who see every victim as deserving of the treatment because, after all, the police are there to protect and serve. On the other hand, there are those who only see a black man getting shot, which translates into a wholesale police culture gunning for black people.

It’s clear that people are drawn to simple narratives and often draw myopic conclusions. But as Christians, we have an obligation to sort out the complexities of these situations. Here are four things we should remember as we continue to process these terrible events.

1. Experience shapes our response.

We need to step back and evaluate how our experiences play into these divergent perspectives. If your experience with law enforcement has been relatively positive, it makes sense that you might have a hard time imagining a cop abusing power or using unnecessary force. However, for people who have had different experiences, the perspective will be that unarmed victims are innocent, even when there is a criminal record. And given the history of injustices against blacks in America, it’s reasonable that a sort of PTSD settles in, creating an exaggerated sense that these incidences demonstrate that there is a police culture en masse.

Now it makes sense that this impacts blacks most of all, who may develop a sense of dread to the point of hyperbolized statements, such as cries of fear to even leave the house. But we’d be wise to consider that not all police or even police departments are equal. Certainly there are communities that experience a culture of police that seems to work against them. And let’s acknowledge that people living in their own communities can best speak what transpires in them. People outside the communities shouldn’t be the first voices to speak about what is going on.

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