To say Botham Jean’s murder caused a ripple in our national fabric last year would be a gross understatement. This budding young graduate of Harding University who had begun a promising career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas was believed to be capable of becoming the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, where he was born. He often led worship in Chapel while a student and clearly had a different view of the world as he sat that evening in his unlocked Dallas apartment with his door ajar.
Amber Guyger also possessed a different view of life. She reportedly relished the idea of stopping bad people and had used her weapon before when her taser was taken from her. With the razor’s edge of emotional readiness primed for the previous 15 hours, she focused on what she thought was her open door and entered ready for confrontation.
Everyone who heard the story had a different thought after they learned the races of those involved. Was the shooter white or black? Was the victim a different race? What about the jurors, attorneys and the judge? Racists have to know the answers to these questions before deciding the right or wrong of any action.
A couple of generations ago, mobs ran through the streets chanting racially charged slogans filled with epithets and calls for action. They literally judged the people they strung up based on color and national origin. But how are the mobs of protesters distinguishing themselves differently as they use the same tactics of racists?
The charge had to be murder in Texas because the act was intentional. That’s why they call it deadly force. But the length of the sentence had to be maximum or racism was involved. As we continue to debate about police shootings in this country, we continue to be hung up on race as the driving factor. In doing so we continue to allow the tactics of racists to drive our emotions and actions.
I’ve said before, the place where race becomes a factor is in the living room of homes where commentary on the news reports molds the minds of children. One sentence after a verdict provides the line of reasoning that sends a child down a path of racism or justice or forgiveness. Calling a person a name using a label meant to demean or devalue them only cements the wrong path toward the wrong criteria and the wrong destination of our hearts.
No mob is ever going to listen to the facts. No protester is ever going to have a reasonable conversation with an opposing view. The tactics of racism keep us shouting demands, jumping to conclusions and ratcheting up the rhetoric until everyone else is as mad as we are. Talk of unrest and civil war continues to frighten any thinking person.
The place to make a difference is still in the living room. Asking better questions than whether the person was white or brown or black can send a conversation…and a nation down a different path. Parents will win this war—or lose it. Just look at Botham’s mother and brother if you don’t agree. Justice and forgiveness aren’t mutually exclusive. We are in dire need of both.