|KB Frazier drums and leads chants as part of the|
protest at St. Louis City Police Headquarters
The family of one of our black activist leaders, KB Frazier (also a worship leader and board member at Central Reform Congregation as well as an awesome drummer) was pulled over by the police without evident cause and their car was approached by two officers with guns drawn. Among those in the car was two year old Ethan, who stood up in the back seat, began to cry out of terror and was told to “sit down and shut up” by one of the officers.
I joined KB and others in the street last night because I took baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being – and the actions of those officers and the system of policing that supports them is neither just, dignified nor honoring of the image of God that is on every human being.
I joined KB and others in the street last night because Jesus calls me to stand with those most on the margins, because that’s where Jesus is.
I joined KB and others in the street last night because the behavior of those officers is not only dangerous, traumatizing and potentially deadly, it is not worthy of this City of St. Louis that I love.
Throughout today, I have been asked repeatedly:
“But how do you know that it actually happened?”
“Where is the evidence?”
“You know you can’t really prove it, right?”
And that leads me to the last reason I joined KB and others in the street last night.
Because I listened to KB, and I believed him.
When Bishop Gene Robinson was here at Christ Church Cathedral last spring, he told a story of a conversation he had with a student at Colby College in Maine about “what white guys can do to ‘get it’ about the experience of black people in America.” (if you click on the link, the story comes at about the 1:35:00 mark).
“Here’s what he told me was the first thing I can do,” Gene said.
“I listen to you and then I believe you.”
“We listen to someone who is different from us, and then we believe it’s their truth. It may not be my truth or anything out of my experience but it’s true for you. And then we have a chance to talk.”
Gene went on to say: “There are a lot of white people in America with not a clue as to why Ferguson happened they way it did. That’s just not their experience. OK, fine. Can you listen to someone for whom that is their experience and believe that it is their experienced truth?”
“And then we can start to talk.”
I’m not saying my belief in KB by itself should have the power of judge and jury. No one person’s should. Our legal system is rightly based on rules of evidence. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m not asking for officers to be convicted purely because KB or I say they should.
I am talking about listening and believing to a truth that is different from my own … and maybe different from your own as well.
We are talking about the lived experience of policing of people who have grown up black and brown in this country. And it is very different from my own. And in the face of that difference, my job -- particularly but certainly not exclusively when the speaker is someone I have come to know as a person of deep integrity and courage – is clear.
I listen to him and I believe him.
And one more thing.
I stand with him.
I stand with KB because we can’t start to talk, we can’t start to have the conversations that will lead to true reconciliation, that will lead to change, that will lead to us becoming the Beloved Community until we as a community truly listen to the voices that are coming off the streets. Until we listen to them and believe them … believe that they are telling their truth. And that it is a truth that needs to be honored and respected and believed.
I am grateful for the young black women, men and gender nonconforming persons in our community who refuse to “sit down and shut up” – even when guns are pointed at them. Who amplify Ethan’s cries and demand they be heard, that his name be known and that the trauma be believed.
I am grateful because I am so aware of how many times I have failed and still continue to fail to listen and believe.
I am grateful because I know the only way we will ever become the city God dreams for us to be is if their voices keep shouting.
If other voices like mine join and amplify them.
If all of us learn to listen and believe.