#AltonSterling

It seems that, no matter how many times we insist that “Black Lives Matter,” it still just isn’t getting through to people. Black lives are still disposable in America.

alton-sterling-10The latest example came late last night, when Alton Sterling, a 37 year old black man selling CD’s outside of a local convenience store in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, was thrown to the ground by two officers, and then, while they had him pinned there with their knees in his back, they shot and killed him at point blank range.

Alton was the father of 5 children. He was known as the “CD Man,” because he often sold CD’s outside of that store to make a little extra cash, something hard to come by in an area where the median salary is $27,000.

Those two officers rolled up on Alton last night, and reminded all of America, once again, that black lives don’t matter to our white society. Alton is a reminder, just like Mike Brown was, and Tamir was, and Eric was, and Freddie was, and Trayvon was, and so many others are.

It doesn’t matter that Alton had a past criminal record. He had done nothing, and was doing nothing, worthy of capital punishment, of cold-blooded execution.

It doesn’t matter that he may or may not have had a gun in his pocket, something perfectly legal in Louisiana, thanks to a complete open carry law, passed by the same folks who will demonize him for it. Remember, the 2nd Amendment only really applies to white America.

The racists and apologists out there will begin throwing these things out there, to distract attention from the clear actions shown in a cell phone video of what happened. They will trot out his past mug shots, and other pictures that emphasize his blackness. They will call him a thug. They will call him a criminal. They will blame him for his own death.They will say these things to dehumanize Alton Sterling, to make his death unimportant, to make him seem like a danger to society. They will do this to ease their own consciences of the guilt of being a proponent of a system that destroys black bodies.

When I wrote my piece last year entitled “Why Black Lives Matter is Crucial, All Lives Matter is Unnecessary, and White Lives Matter is Just Racist,” I got a lot of pushback from folks saying that BLM was basically a solution looking for a problem, that our racial problems magically disappeared in the late 60s, that white people are the ones actually being persecuted in this country. A year later, I still get comments over there to that effect. My fellow white people can’t stand the spotlight being off of us, can’t stand the idea that other folks want to their full humanity acknowledged and not dismissed.

Alton Sterling shows how wrong that worldview is.

What happened in Baton Rogue is a profound injustice. It was completely unnecessary. It was disgusting, enraging and despicable.

It was also completely typical.

Let me close with the words I ended that earlier piece with:

I have no doubt that, were Jesus alive today, he would be saying Black Lives Matter and marching in the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore. And really, he already is, in the form of every human who says these words and marches for justice. I want to be on the side of Jesus, and the side of justice and truth. That’s why I support Black Lives Matter.

Jesus was shot and killed in a parking lot in Baton Rogue last night. Did we white Americans recognize him in that video? Or did we just see another expendable black body, and forget, again, that where the poor and oppressed and weak are, there is Jesus?

For updates and impassioned commentary on the death of Alton Sterling, and the protests happening now, I highly recommend following Shaun King. You can also find the cell phone video of Alton’s death there.

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34 thoughts on “#AltonSterling

  1. Jon Brown-Schmidt

    This man is Jesus, the man who only minutes prior was pointing a gun at people outside a convenience store? Or is this just the ‘jesus’ you want to see? The ‘jesus’ you can use to advance a cause? Jesus died hanging from cross on a hill in Israel about 2000 years ago, not Baton Rouge.

    How many dead blacks in Chicago this year? Yet, silence from hypocrites such as yourself. Those dead jesus’ don’t fit the cause.

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    1. Wherever injustice exists, Jesus is present in the oppressed party. Have you even watched the videos? Alton Sterling was pinned to the ground. His gun was in his pocket. He was shot six times. Six times. In the chest. At point blank range. How can you defend that? How can you, as a Christian, dismiss this man’s life? How can you ignore injustice? How in the world, as a human being, do you not feel a twinge of sorrow?

      I care about any unjust death. I care about gun violence in our country, something that should be obvious by now. I would love to rid the streets of Chicago of guns. But I especially care about agents of the state dealing out death so easily. Let me ask you the question: why do you care so much about deaths in Chicago, but are willing to let governmental violence and death-dealing slide? Why is violence committed by police officers ok to you?

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      1. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        It is difficult what to debunk first, your attempt to characterize me as one to wishes increased government brutality or your belief that removing guns from citizens and concentrating within the government is somehow a smart solution. So I will start by addressing your questions.

        1) “How can you defend that? How can you, as a Christian, dismiss this man’s life? How can you ignore injustice? How in the world, as a human being, do you not feel a twinge of sorrow?”

        Prior to making blind assumptions, it is important to understand what happened. For instance, what happened prior to the beginning of the recording? Why did the cop feel lethal force was warranted? Unless we know those two things, how are you able to condemn the officers? I am not defending them nor their actions, but rather their right to be proven guilt, not your demand that they be proven innocent. The true injustice lies in using ideology rather than our justice system to convict. Finally, I do feel sorry and I never questioned whether or not we should morn Alton’s death.

        2) “Let me ask you the question: why do you care so much about deaths in Chicago, but are willing to let governmental violence and death-dealing slide? Why is violence committed by police officers ok to you?”

        How many traffic stop occur throughout the inner cities of our country on a daily basis? Of those how many end in unjustified government violence? Are you more likely to be killed by a cop or your fellow citizen in the inner city?

        I would like to point out that I have at no time suggested that unjustified police violence was ‘ok’. Yet, neutering the police and the authority of the government to protect only increases crime (see New York and Chicago). Officers found to be guilty of unjustified homicide should be punished in the same way as the general population.

        Now let me address a couple thing you stated:

        1) “Wherever injustice exists, Jesus is present in the oppressed party.” Can you provide a Bible passage to support that blanket statement? Is Jesus present in the atheist who feels oppressed by a picture of the ten commandments? Is Jesus present in the Muslim who feels oppressed by a photo of Mohammad?

        2) If you remove guns from society, who does the removal? The government? If so, must they voluntarily remove their own weapons? Who governs that? If only the government has weapons, don’t you have tyranny?

        3) In my city, the inner city has been decimated by liberal policies. Policies that have destroyed the family, put in place an education system that focuses on teacher salary vs educating, created vast amounts of government dependence and a justice system that returns offenders to the streets under the guise of ‘rehabilitation’. Furthermore, when those things are pointed out, why do I get labelled as a racist? I care for those in the inner city, of any inner city. They are subject to policies they can’t control and live oppressed under a progressive ideology that has only made their plight worse. The soft racism of liberalism has done more to harm the black family, than any cotton field.

        So please, continue preaching your victimization story. Continue to tell the world that black lives require your white ideology to save them, tell them how incapable they are without your governments support and tell them their sin has nothing to do with being part of a broken world, but rather they are excluded from earthly utopia by conservatives.

        Sounds like a message from Jesus himself.

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      2. Frankly, if you’re first response to a black death is to defend the killer, no matter the legal guilt or innocence, then I have serious questions about your empathy for that black life. You can be outraged about these things without having to wait for a jury to return a verdict. But that’s part of what necessitates the existence of BLM: far too often, the one who committed a murder is never even brought to trial to even determine guilt.

        As for your questions, Matthew 25 is where you can find it: “Whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did to me.” Again, anytime oppression exists, Jesus is there on the side of the oppressed. As a Universalists, I thus mean this universally. But the oppression must be real oppression, not the flase oppression claimed by perpetuators of violence or majorities who see others gaining rights and thus crying out.

        I think the government can play a role in more sensible gun laws. I think, as a society and culture, we need to move towards a more peaceful society that doesn’t see every solution at the end of a gun barrel.

        Finally, they are. But, I have a hard time engaging any argument that asserts that any modern policy is worse than slavery. You are wrong, and offensive. No policy is worse than enslaving an entire race of people. Drop that kind of excessive inflammatory rhetoric and then I’ll engage your arguments.

        I haven’t posited at all that black liberation requires white ideology. In fact, if you read my articles on Black Lives Matter, you will clearly see I argue over and over again that we whites need to get out of the way, and stop being a roadblock to liberation.

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      3. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        In Matthew 25, isn’t Jesus discussing the final judgement? The separation of sheep and goats? Beyond making the claim that he himself is God, those who are ‘blessed’, his ‘brothers’ would be the sheep, those carrying the gospel message. Hence, when Jesus says ‘the least of these brothers of mine’ he is speaking treatment of Christians specifically. Jesus is found within his people spreading the gospel message. This passage does not refer to Jesus being found oppression in all humanity, but specifically to mistreatment of those with the gospel message. (Hebrews 2:11)

        I argue not that Christians should care for those disadvantaged. Only your belief that Christ is in all oppressed. That is simply untrue. Otherwise, how do you explain Isaiah 61:1 and Jesus own teaching on it in Luke 4.

        Christians are first called to minister to the oppressed and bring the message of salvation. We are to be selfless with our blessings as we interact with the world. The change we are to bring is the Gospel message, not preach political agendas designed to bring earthly peace.

        You said, “I haven’t posited at all that black liberation requires white ideology.” Yet follow that by making an ideological statement. Moreover, you call out the ‘system’ for being racist (ie white), while demanding that the ‘system’ make changes to things such as gun laws. I am confused. Do blacks need your ideology or not?

        I find much of this to be extremely closed minded. You have your political ideology, you form your Christian world view around that and then reject anything that contradicts either. Racism is one of many problems in the inner city culture and the country as a whole. In fact, it is probably the least of the problems minorities face. It is however, the easiest way to make political change and to politically intimidate your opposition. Standing up for Black lives as segment of God’s creation is one thing. Using Christ to defend a political view that earthly peace can come through a progressive ideology is inappropriate at best.

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      4. Jon, we’ve had this conversation. I’m not doing it again. If you still think I am defending a political agenda by putting on the language of faith, then you’ve never actually listened. And if you think Jesus wasn’t about the poor and needy and oppressed, then we are completely different pages.

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      5. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        So Christ came to save his people from personal poverty, oppression from others round them and to satiate their material/bodily needs?

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      6. Jesus lived in a way that shows us what a life connected to God looks like. That is a life lived in love for my fellow man, and that means not letting my brothers and sisters live in inhumane and degrading ways. I can’t have respect for the dignity of other humans if I am willing to let them be abused and hungry and sick.

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      7. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        Then back to your previous post.

        Where is your hope? Man has been trying to solve the problem of poverty/oppression since the death of Christ. We are not any closer and some may argue, based on the simple size of human population, we are further from peace than we were 2K yrs ago. Aren’t we by your definition further from God?

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      8. But, I don’t even consider that hope necessary for existence. I don’t need the assurance of eternal salvation or life to enjoy this life now, here today. We are alive and the world is a beautiful and awe-inspiring place and that is good enough. To be aware of the existence of a transcendent, eternal Source of Being is just icing on the cake.

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      9. I don’t think God needs a tool or impetus to reconcile us to God’s self. God’s love is the means through which it happens; God’s love is so strong and all pervasive that nothing and no one can resist it.

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      10. You don’t have to; nobody is forcing you to. But to live in the Way of Jesus is such a life-changing, exciting way of being alive is enough in and of itself. That’s the evangelizing I believe in; not to tell people they need to follow Jesus to avoid hell, but because to do so is such a wonderful way of being.

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      11. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        It is? Living selflessly is wonderful and rewarding? Contrast that with Donald Trump who has everything and might even be president. Are you honestly telling me he would feel more reward if he cast all that aside. Didn’t Jesus way of life lead directly to his death?

        Also, if God’s love is never failing and all encompassing; isn’t the Donald on equal footing with God as you are? Why then do you get to attack him?

        As a point of fact, I also don’t believe that you can evangelize via fear of hell.

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      12. Yes, Trump is absolutely on equal ground as me. We all are as human beings. All the more reason why we get to challenge, and yes, sometimes criticize each other.

        Yes, I do think living selflessly, living in the example of Jesus, is very freeing and exhilarating. I think people may think being self-centered and focused on material things is wonderful, but I think if you really dug down, you would find they aren’t ultimately fulfilled. It’s like Tillich talked about: when you make something besides the Source your ultimate concern, you may be ultimately concerned, but you aren’t fulfilled.

        But, as a Universalist, I’m also not trying to convert every last person to be a follower of Jesus. Other people may find fulfillment elsewhere, and that’s cool. Different strokes for different folks. That’s why these values – justice, mercy, love, equality, hospitality, trust – are so important. Those things are what its all about. Those are the things Jesus lived every day.

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      13. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        If, “Other people may find fulfillment elsewhere”, than your criticism on anything is unjust. Because you find fulfillment in altruism, doesn’t mean another can’t find fulfillment in greed. While we can ponder philosophically about personal fulfillment in some utopian clean room; the truth is, that is not the way of the world. People crave power, fame and wealth. Many may do so believing they are upholding “justice, mercy, love, equality, hospitality, trust”.

        Why do you get to determine who then is right and wrong? For example, in your most recent piece you all out ‘All Lives Matter’. They are no more wrong than you if they believe they are following the ways of “justice, mercy, love, equality, hospitality, trust”.

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      14. That’s only true if those words don’t actually mean anything. We can debate and disagree about their meaning, but I think there is a Universal Truth that defines those words. While there are many paths one can take to that Truth, and the Source of Being behind it, their is only one Truth. Thus, we can gain insight into things like justice, mercy, love, equality, hospitality, and trust through the words and actions of people like Jesus, or the Buddha, or the Jewish prophets, and apply those things to today’s world and people’s actions. Thus, I can look at Donald Trump and know that he is acting from greed, self-interest, power thirst, and bigotry, and call those things out.

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      15. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        That means that truth is little more than what other man have told us truth must be? If the source is ambiguous and the paths numerous; how can you be sure you have reached the truth and not just some ancient improper interpretation of it?

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      16. Maybe we haven’t! But I think we all partake in existence with God, and we have an innate sense of right and wrong, of good and bad, of what those words mean. I believe Jesus was able to tap into that Source like no other person has ever been able to do and thus, his teachings are legitimate guideposts for finding our way to God and Truth. But it never ends. It’s always an on-going process.

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      17. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        As a personal creed, that is good. However, it still fails to answer any real questions. Why does yours Trump (pun intended) anyone who views the world differently? And in fact, if that can’t be answered, aren’t you the oppressor for forcing being critical of the views of others?

        I understand your belief that humanity should keep each other in check, but that assumes a rigid standard by which to judge. Rather, you simply adhere to the current cultural construct of right/wrong. Your views would be different had you been born 75yrs earlier. Why are our views on morality considered truthful now and not then? As the fluidity of cultural morality ebbs and flows, won’t you be wrong with your beliefs today? To come full circle, doesn’t that make you the oppressor?

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      18. No, I don’t think having opinions and beliefs makes me an oppressor. I would be an oppressor if I forced those on people. Writing my opinions here, advocating for them, doesn’t make me an oppressor. And, even criticizing people if I believe others are doing harm is not oppression. Again, I don’t feel the need to make everyone believe like I do. But I do think we have to respect the fundamental dignity and humanity of all people, and those who encroach on others negatively are open to critique. These ideas-justice, mercy, equality etc – point us towards the ultimate maximization and elevation of human life in it’s fullest sense.

        Sure, these standards change, and I’m sure they will continue to evolve. But, as I said, I think there are universal truths that hold true across time, and I am also a strong believer in the positive progression of human history, in the idea that MLK stated, that the arc of history if bent towards justice. So, yeah, 75 years from now, I’m sure folks will look back and shake their heads at us. But, in today’s world, it works. It’s why I’m not a huge fan of looking back and criticizing people in the past too much for having what we would term outdated beliefs; it was a different time, and they were at a different point in the great progression.

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      19. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        “Forced” is a dubious word in your context. Correct, you haven’t held anyone down until they change their mind. However, you have been willing to attack those that fail to see your opinion. These attacks range from political candidates, to trans genders and marriage. You are using the authority you have based your definition of truth, in an attempt to silence opposition.

        If your opinions, were an opinion. In order to challenge the opinion of others, as you do. You must have a standard by which to follow. Claiming that there is some nebulous truth, at some hidden ‘source’, by which the paths to achieve are numerous; is not a standard. It’s an emotion. Leaving your opinions lacking the truth you claim exists. As a result, when your emotions are challenged, you can simply claim a new path or change how we define the ‘source’. You have yet to identify why you can conclude their is even a universal truth. Why isn’t it simply an evolutionary glitch created to further the species and is nothing beyond the firing of a synapse?

        If your ‘truth’ is undefined and as a result your opinions are grounded simply in emotion, any attempt to coerce others into affirming your opinion is oppression. Unless you can prove the existence of a ‘source’ and a concrete standard by which you can judge love, justice, mercy, equality, hospitality and trust. That is, beyond your idealistic desires you feel would create a peaceful world.

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      20. I mean, by your standard, none of us should be expressing opinions, as we are all “oppressing” by doing so. Was MLK an oppressor? Gandhi? Reagan? If me criticizing those who are actively doing harm to others via my blog is too much for some to take, well, then there sure are some delicate flowers out there. But, I really have a hard time accepting your argument that my expressing my views and addressing injustices as I (and many, many, many others) see them based on our reading of the Bible and understanding of Jesus is somehow oppression. Would you say I was oppressing people if I was espousing a more orthodox Christian worldview and railing against abortion and gay marriage and religious liberty? You keep accusing me of being overtly political, but I seriously have a hard time believing you would be here hitting all my blog posts if I were conservative and in line with your views.

        You’ve also given me an impossible standard: I must prove the existence of God for my views to be true, otherwise I am an oppressive monster. But, it works for you too: can you prove the existence of God and thus justify your views as somehow more legitimate than mine? This is the biggest problem I have with you: instead of just disagreeing with me, you constantly deny my right to even comment or have differing views from you. Instead of disagreeing with you, I am somehow committing a mortal sin and thus am completely illegitimate by having a view of the world and faith that is progressive.

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      21. Jon Brown-Schmidt

        First, on a personal level, apart from the politics of the day, I hope you had a good weekend.

        Ok, you list 3 people that have objective standards. MLK and Reagan were Christians, traditional Christians. Believing a singular Triune God and Jesus Christ as their savior. Ghandi, on the other hand held a view closer to yours; however, when he judged a persons actions, he used the standards of that person to judge them, not his own. So to your point, “by your standard, none of us should be expressing opinions”, the difference is you have yet to provide the standard by which you judge. Is it the God of the Bible, or do you judge all by their individual gods? As far as I can tell through this thread, you have invented a new standard by which you can judge all in the the way you see fit. It is an emotion based judgement that when your political sensibilities are offended, you find a way to react and judge.

        Your approach would be different if you used a traditional Christian view or were more conservative. Your worldview and ideology inform you that those people (right wingers) are hateful. That if you wrote pieces using God’s word to rain hell fire on those who support abortion, gay marriage, [insert progressive political agenda of choice], etc.; I would pick of the torch and pitch forks and fall in line. That is very uneducated view if those who don’t approve of your political agenda and is based more on reading other liberal blogs and applying the actions of the fringe to the whole.

        No impossible standard. I am not asking you to ‘prove God’, simply lay out any kind of objective standard. The issues with progressive Christians is they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want a subjective political view that grants individual rights based on emotion or political control and then form the Bible round that agenda. The end result is form of theocracy that is tyrannical at its core. Unlike Ghandi, who searched for truth and judged others by their own standards, you establish that truth exists in your political agenda which is also the standard by which you are able to judge. All the while claiming that you are finding real truth is some unnamed ‘source’. The ‘source’ you search for is your own emotional attachment to the things of this world.

        I have an objective truth, but I am not judging you on that. I am judging you by your own standard. If there are many paths to truth and we have yet to understand the true truth; than my path as a ‘right winger’ is equally valid as your progressive path. Correct? Obviously, this than creates the problem of outcomes. If the outcomes are different, but paths are equal; aren’t all outcomes equal? If not, by what objective standard do you have to claim differently.

        I have not denied your right to comment. Rather attempted to hold you to your own standard of searching out truth.

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      22. My weekend was good, and then this week has been crazy, so I’ve been unable to make time to get back here! But Fridays are good for this.

        I’ve tried to be pretty clear that my standard is in fact the Jesus and the Bible, as the clearest revelations of God that we have. This is where I get those values I mentioned above to measure actions by. Thus, no, any path is not equally valid, if it violates a basic understanding of those values as seen through the lens of Jesus’ life and example. Now, this doesn’t mean I take the Bible as 100% literal face value; we have the intelligence and means to read it for what it is, and read through the cultural context to tease universal truths.

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  2. Pingback: #PhilandoCastile – Justin DaMetz

  3. Thank you for raising your voice, with so many others, to say what so desperately needs to be heard and taken into our hearts. May those who can hear the truth find these words and join the outcry. May we all find the strength to sustain our cries until justice is done and these killings no longer sanctioned.

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  4. Another thought, please, Justin: if anything is going to change, it’s going to be up to the pastors and ministers to do it. Almost no one else is even trying anymore, so it will be up to we ministers – black and white, lay and ordained – to end this low-grade civil war in our country.

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