The B.A.R.T. Shooting, Obama, Race Relations and the True Dividing Line Among Men

So I’m listening to “all things considered” on NPR yesterday ( I know for some of you this was my first mistake), and they do this story on the black community’s response to the new years shooting of a young, unarmed black man by a transit cop. For those of you who don’t know what happened here is a brief run down, “Witnesses said Mehserle, who is white, fired a shot into the back of 22-year-old Oscar Grant while the supermarket worker was lying face down on a train platform at a station in Oakland. Grant and others had been pulled off a train after reports of fighting, as New Year’s Eve revelers were shuttling home after midnight. ‘Videos of the action show him being pushed facedown,’ Gonzales says. ‘Officer Mehserle has his knee in his back. Then the officer rises, pulls out his gun and shoots Grant in the back. The officer looks momentarily stunned.’” The video of the whole thing was captured on a cell phone and placed on youtube. These lead to rioting and protests in the bay area last week. While this is appealing and sad what is even sadder to me is the comment of an African American later in the piece. She says to the effect of the following ‘ this is strange week due to the election of Obama and the hopes tied up in him… this killing brings us as a black community back to reality. This stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m done with my dinner. All I’m doing in that moment is thinking; thinking about race, thinking about the misplaced hopes of one community and the misplaced fears of another in regard to Obama, thinking about the way sin makes no race superior, thinking about the true dividing line of life, if you are in Christ or not. What I walked away with was this; that the true reality of the situation, as nasty as it was, is that due to sin this should be expected, yes we should try and prevent it from happening, but when it does it should not shock us. Second, to hold the view that one racial group is better or worse than another in light of the universality of the fall of man is to ignore the facts. All men are evil, all hate God and all, whether black, white, purple or blue can and would kill if all common grace was removed. Additionally, to think that one man who is not God will be to you all the things you have collectively hoped for as community for the last 400 years is unfair not only to him, (think of the pressure of that task) or the community as a whole (how cheap to allow one man to define and embody what you are as a people). Lastly, I reflected on the true divide among men; being in Christ or not. This is an amazing divide. The power to heal all racial conflict is wrapped up in it. The keys of life and pain are wrapped up in it. In the end the color of your skin is not important, but if Christ die to save that skin.

    • Amy
    • March 13th, 2009

    Russ, excellent comments. Sadly, the black community, in my opinion and based on family members who have said such, our new President is truly viewed as “savior”. Savior from what I’m not sure but it is sad that the Savior they really need doesn’t wear a nice suit and live with his family in the White House.

    • russellandduenes
    • March 25th, 2009

    I live about 2 miles from the Fruitvale BART station where the shooting happened, and about 2 miles from where the 4 cops were just killed on Saturday. The issues of race in our culture are so complex and have such profound historical roots, it is hard to sort things out. Obviously I agree with you that “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” All who have a true union with Christ are one in brotherhood. But I don’t know if I agree that “the color of your skin is not important.” I get your meaning, but I think that statement is a deeply American one, and not perhaps a biblical one. For Christ shed his blood to redeem some from “every tribe, tongue, nation, and language.” And I think that God is the one who made the ethnolinguistic distinctions, and he made them to be celebrated, as I believe they will be in the eschaton. There’s much more to be said, but I believe our “melting pot” ecclesiology is American, not apostolic.

    • humanitasremedium
    • March 26th, 2009

    Great point you raise about the Americanness of statement about color not mattering.Upon reflection I would say that it matters not in that one group has a higher moral standing but that each ethnic and racial grouping will have redemption applied to it. For example I have more in common with a christian Somali on an eternal, lasting level than I do with another middle class white America. Thank you again for pointing that out.

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