Convergences don’t happen often. We’re in the middle of one, now.
First, there is a national conversation happening about race and police brutality. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, as reported in the September 2014 Mother Jones, between 2003 and 2009 there were more than 2,900 arrest-related deaths involving law enforcement, and average of about 420 deaths a year. MJ reports that “A rough calculation based on its data shows that black people were about four times as likely to die in custody or while being arrested than whites.” According to the Center for Disease Control’s cause-of-death data between 1968 and 2011, black people were between two to eight times more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than whites. Annually, over those 40 years, a black person was on average 4.2 times as likely to get shot and killed by an arresting than a white person.
However, it’s rare that an individual officer goes on duty and makes a conscious decision to make life-and-death decisions based on race. Most are good men and women serving their communities and believing their actions help keep us safe. Therefore our conversation transcends individual racism and police brutality, which are certainly out there, to institutional racism and how police are trained to interact with the public. It’s a complicated equation of poverty, socialized fear, and training tactics. Technology is also a factor with the potential for body cameras and non-lethal weapons.
Second, there is a desire among congregations in our community to come together in solidarity. Among UU congregations, also, there is a desire to work together. Community organizations such as Community Renewal Society and IRON are both acting on prison justice issues. The questions is where can we leverage these convergences most effectively? As you’ve seen UU clergy are working across congregational boundaries, and there are more actions planned for late winter and spring. CRS is planning actions, including the important Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally in the city. Evanston clergy are reforming our interfaith organization to be a more effective agent of change and connection. What can your committee do to make a connection?