My heart is troubled this morning. Yesterday, I read a story from the newspaper in my small, quiet, peaceful, city, that a young man had been chased on foot by police. The report was that he had shot himself and died. This morning, I read of protests and shouting and obscenities and racist slurs. The young man was African American. Twenty years old. A father. A mother’s son.
The protests proclaim Black lives matter. Hands up, don’t shoot. There are reports of eyewitnesses claiming that they saw Winchester Police fire their weapons at the young man. What is the truth? The Virginia State Police will conduct an investigation. The NAACP are sending representatives as well. I am making no assumptions about what actually happened. I wait, and pray for peace… and justice based on truth.
As a member of that generation who were the first to attend integrated public schools in Virginia, many sad memories are welling up in my soul. Ask any of us from that generation, black or white, and we all have stories of violence. Having played in the T.C. Williams High School football program a few years after the setting of the film, “Remember the Titans,” I know it was an important, feel-good story to tell, but that was the simplified “Disney” version of the story. It was much more complex, and much more violent. Memories like that are from the past, but they come to mind today. More recent events from far away, like Ferguson, also come to mind. Now a related event is happening here.
I wish racism were a bad memory we could put behind us, but it’s still with us. I see it in the statistics of racial profiling. I read it today in blatant, overt, prejudiced online comments at the bottom of local newspaper articles. Black lives matter is a statement that needs to be affirmed until we have rebuilt trust in one another. At the same time, police lives matter, as we remember the death of a Prince William County officer, killed in the line of duty late last week.
A guy named Jesus was once approached (Luke 10:25-37) by a lawyer who asked Jesus how he could have eternal life. Jesus asked the lawyer what the law said. The lawyer recited what is known as the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responded, “Do this and you will live.”
The lawyer should have stopped there. But he wanted to know if there were any loopholes: “But who is my neighbor?” So Jesus told a famous story where the hero was a man from another race: The Good Samaritan. In other words, whether we like it or not, we don’t get to choose who our neighbors are. And the greatest commandment of God is to love God and love our neighbors: all of our neighbors.
Right now, we’re in the wilderness of not knowing all the facts. The hurt, the tension, and the bad memories cause our emotions sometimes get the best of us. The truth that we know right now is that a young man has died by gunshot. D’Londre Minifield was my neighbor. I don’t know all the facts of how he died, yet. I hope that the truth comes out soon. Let us all pause and grieve, and pray, and talk, and hug. Black lives matter. Police lives matter. Our neighbors’ lives, all lives, matter.