Recent scene from a Kenosha boarded up business. | Photo credit: Zack Payne and Chrystelle Sachse
Another African American man has been unjustifiably shot—in the back, no less—by a white police officer. Another round of violent protests by enraged citizens has erupted as a consequence. Another plea for peaceful demonstrations has been issued. Another state of emergency has been declared. Another contingent of the National Guard has been deployed.
Three months after the unwarranted killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, the Black Lives Matter movement has a new flashpoint. As with Floyd, were it not for footage shot by an alert bystander we may never have known what happened to Jacob Blake, Jr. In this case, the video shows Blake walking around and trying to get into his car before a police officer grabs him by the shirt and shoots him at point blank range multiple times in his back. In the car were Blake’s three children, one of whom was celebrating a birthday that very day. At this moment Blake is hospitalized in critical condition, his family reportedly saying that he is paralyzed from the waist down.
People of conscience must unite in condemning this latest act of questionable police conduct that took place in broad daylight. When will these senseless encounters that are prone to go awry cease? The indiscriminate shootings of African American men by law enforcement is anything but sporadic or isolated. They are atrocities that illustrate that black men are undervalued in the United States of America and that, at the very least, law enforcement needs training in how to deescalate tense situations.
Kenosha, Wisconsin, is within the territory of the Lake Region Conference and we cannot be silent in the face of the travesty that took place there a few days ago. We bemoan the unjustifiable shooting of Jacob Blake, Jr., and we join voices with those crying out for justice. Our prayers are ascending on behalf of Jacob Blake, Jr., whose life has been irreversibly altered. We resonate with the sentiments of his mother, who has decried the violent demonstrations and has appealed for peaceful protests that respect life and property. We pray for Blake’s children, who may be emotionally scarred for life as a result of witnessing firsthand the near slaughter of their father at the hands of police. We commit to eradicating every ideology that divides or demeans, and every practice that decimates or destroys.
The call of Scripture is that God’s people pursue justice and respect all life (Micah 6:8; Gen. 1:26). Now, more than ever, is the time for us to answer that call. The blood of Jacob Blake, Jr. and countless other African Americans demand that we embrace that call.
R. Clifford Jones is the president of Lake Region Conference.