I've taken up spending Advent reflecting on#Ferguson and police violence and killing of unarmed Black men, in light of the themes and scriptures read durring this season of preparation and penitence.
I began with this post on Thanksgiving and Advent, My sermon for the First Sunday of Advent was picked up by Theology of Ferguson for curation at #StayWokeAdvent .
Then I reflected on the Isaiah 64:1-9 passage from last Sunday and the icon's of the Baptism of Christ and Pentecost, both which show the heavens open and God coming down. The Isaiah passage begins with a cry for God to tear open the heavens and come down.
This all is discouraging and possibly hopeful. In this Advent and as we are facing again in this nation the depths and persistence of racist structures and patterns, I'm wrestling with and seeking to reflect upon the nature of hope and the persistence of evil and sin. I'm at the moment thinking that two things are keeping us from seeing clearly: first is our focus on individual action and culpability, second is related the role of systems and structures to perpetuate realities we don't necessarily intend.
In the first there is a tendency for some to see a police officer held accountable for their actions to be the solution, and thus an unwillingness to look at the system of policing itself as the actual source of the problem rather than individual police officers. Essentially the bad apple theory of evil. rather than looking to the tree itself. Related to this is to see individuals who are police as the enemy, rather than the system of policing in which they are trained. People often defend police by saying the cops they know aren't racist or bad people. I have no doubt this to be true, people who happen to be police aren't necessarily the problem and in questioning policing I do not mean to call into question the character of individuals who happen to be police officers.
This leads to the second our failure to see that systems and corporate entities like government can have powers and effects beyond the particular individuals who hold positions in these entities. We tend to want to give priority to the intentions of individuals over the powers of systems. We don't want to admit the possibility that systems may bend an individuals intentions and actions to ends the individual didn't desire or mean. I want to suggest that if we reflect upon the power of systems that it is indeed a possibility to have a racist system without "racists" (if by racist we mean individuals who actively believe another race, or races,to be inferior and intend harm upon individuals of that other race).