Regarding the high profile officer involved fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, realize this: every one of us is prejudiced in some way. To a degree this is a result of how our brains categorize and connect things. It is also the result of our past experiences and perceptions of the world. The truth is out there, but that doesn’t mean anyone has a perfect or strictly objective view of it. Facts must be evaluated by dispassionate and trained persons if we are ever to find the truth of any incident. That is why there are courts of law and trials. That is why the arresting officers in a particular case don’t have the final say. Ideally, a jury of the accused’s peers will determine guilt or innocence.
I have past experiences that bring me to realize that not all police officers are trustworthy. I choose to believe that most are, but I’ve been on the wrong side of criminal cops. So, when I hear, or read of a shooting like that of Sterling or Castile, I am immediately suspicious of the officers involved. I may be inclined to rush to judgment because of my personal experience with bad cops. You may have a glowing view of law enforcement because nothing bad has happened to you, your family or friends. Instead, your prejudice may be toward anyone whom the police accuse, arrest or shoot. Your automatic reaction may be to believe that the person must have done something wrong, rather than assuming their innocence as the U.S. justice system demands.
What I believe all of us must do is admit to our prejudices, withhold judgment, and let facts come forth. Somebody may well say, “Yes, but you don’t know how I feel. You don’t know what I’ve been through.” However, that is exactly what reason circumvents. My feelings and experiences do not form the basis for a reasoned evaluation of a unique incident. Reason looks at evidence and evaluates accordingly. You and I need to stop emotionally reacting and start thinking, evaluating available evidence, and praying before we speak, post, or protest.
So, I will admit that I am angry at what appears to be, at best, inept police officers overreacting and killing people. Were they racist? I don’t know. Did race play into their actions? I don’t know. It may have, but one would need to interview people in the lives of each officer to make that determination. Would Alton Sterling or Philando Castile be dead if they were white. Very probably, assuming all of the circumstances were identical, except for their ethnicities. I admit my bias. I am white, and I have been in an incident involving white police officers where I was accused of something I did not do, something those officers knew I didn’t do. In my situation the two officers involved should have been fired at the very least, and then jailed if justice was to be served. So, I know it is possible for police officers to act badly regardless of race. That said, I could be wrong. Maybe the officer would never have pulled Castile over. Maybe the two Louisiana cops would have treated Sterling differently. This might be racially motivated on some level. However, that cannot be determined without evaluating the officers involved, as well as the culture of the police departments where they serve.
Racism was clearly Micah Johnson’s movtive when he murdered five Dallas police officers and injured nine others. He stated that his intention was to murder white people, especially white police officers. It appears this was his twisted version of vengeance for the deaths of black persons by white officers. You and I need to back off of our hate filled, angry reactions to these events, or we may well find ourselves in the same kind of unreasonable, emotional state that motivated Johnson.
Jesus Christ taught that it is what comes from the heart that makes a person bad. What we think always comes before what we do. More importantly, how we think will put us in a position to do good or evil. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, lies, slanders” (Matthew 15:19). A cop, a criminal, or a citizen may have an evil heart, a bad attitude, distorted thinking, and that is what results in evil actions. “When selfish desire is conceived, it results in sin, and sin results in death” (James 1:15). The way we think about what is happening right now really matters. Hatred and anger are not only a bad response, but an evil one. These attitudes will spawn further violence. Please, my friends, let none of us be part of it!