Americans Protest, Pray After More Shootings
In the News
Charlotte, N.C.—Racial tensions escalated this week after black men in two more U.S. cities were shot and killed by police officers. Reactions varied dramatically, however: Violent riots in Charlotte, North Carolina, led to a national emergency and curfew, while peaceful prayer vigils occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Tulsa residents say they’re angry but have other outlets for venting. The Rev. Ray Owens, who hosted a vigil, says his church was “a space for safe yet constructive expression of our righteous rage.” Owens distributed cards so attendees could “write your lament” and be heard. At the vigil, a white minister told the crowd it was important for whites to “back away…and allow people to be pissed off.”
In Tulsa, white officer Betty Shelby has been charged with felony manslaughter after shooting and killing Terence Crutcher, whose vehicle had stalled. Shelby maintains that Crutcher was ignoring orders and may have been reaching for a weapon. None was found.
Charlotte’s police chief says Keith Lamont Scott was shot—by black officer Brentley Vinson—because he didn’t obey orders to drop his weapon. Scott’s family claims he was holding a book while waiting for his son at a bus stop.
“If (Scott) had a weapon or not…all the training that these police officers have, why does it go right to shooting?” asks Charlotte protester Roy Pegram. “Instead of trying to talk to him and trying to get the problem resolved, (police) went right to the trigger. They figure a black man’s involved, they’ve gotta be aggressive.”
Protester Nichelle Dunlap wonders how police could capture an East Coast terror suspect alive this week, despite a shootout. “Because you wanted to question him, does his life mean more than our black men across the nation?” she asks. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The perception of discrimination in the U.S. justice system should be “a source of concern for all Americans,” says President Obama. “Ultimately, it requires all of us to search our hearts to make sure we’re asking ourselves tough questions,” he says. “Are we teaching our kids to see people for their character and not for their color?”
Sources: cnn.com, abcnews.go.com, nbcnews.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
How do you feel about the different reactions to the most recent police shootings of black men? Which reaction do you think is most effective—and the most likely to get results? Explain. If a questionable police shooting happened in your community, what reaction would you expect, and why?
To you, what does “righteous rage” mean? Is it a biblical concept? Why or why not? Why does venting feel so good, especially when you believe you’ve been treated unfairly?
When you want to be heard, where and to whom do you turn? What’s the difference, if any, between a lament and a complaint? Is it okay to let God know what you’re angry or frustrated about—even if you’re angry with him? Explain. When does that cross the line into whining, distrust, or ingratitude?
How do you feel about the lament of black Americans regarding their treatment by police? Does it concern you, even if you aren’t black? Do you agree that police are generally too quick to shoot when black males are involved? Explain.
If you were a police officer, how might recent events affect your on-the-job performance and reactions? What steps could you take to avoid unnecessary shootings, and how could you ensure your own safety?
Do you think America will ever become a color-blind nation? What might you be able to do now to help that happen?
Do you have safe spaces to express yourself and vent, without fear of offending someone or having your privacy violated? Are you willing to stay quiet and let other people vent, without trying to interrupt or steer the conversation certain ways?
As a Christian, when do you feel as if you’re a “sheep among wolves”? As you’re trying to follow Jesus—and spread good news and hope—how can you be “as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves”?
Scripture links: Job 3:20-26; Psalm 44:23-26; Lamentations 3:13-26; Habakkuk 1:2-4; Matthew 10:5-20; and James 1:19-20.