Finally the possibility for justice.
I was signally moved on this morning as I watched the state attorney for the city of Baltimore charge the six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. My heart has been heavy for this season of upheaval in Charm City, but as I watched CNN and heard the indictment read, I fought back the tears. For the past several days I watched as the city where I pastored for eleven years, went up in flames. People reached a boiling point for the years of police brutality that have been unaddressed and unchecked.
What was so frightening was that Freddie Gray simply made eye contact with the officers, who saw that as enough of a reason to pursue and arrest him. He was not committing a crime, he was not selling drugs, or robbing anyone, and there was no probable cause for all the commotion that led to his arrest and untimely death. It is the symbol of legalized thuggery that irresponsible law enforcement officers engage in that mimics gangers who you dare not look at in the wrong way, lest you loose your life.
The unparalleled outcry was not just about what happened in Baltimore but about what has been happening to Black people at the hands of law enforcement and where it appears that we are animals to be hunted. The law, which promises equal protection for all, has somehow evaded our communities. Blacks families who have lost loved ones while in police custody have not seen anything remotely resembling justice.
The big picture shows Blacks being incarcerated at a higher rate that any other race. It shows Blacks serving major time on death row for crimes thy did not commit, several now being released with new DNA evidence. Blacks who are stopped, harassed, and arrested by law enforcement for no apparent reason. What we saw in Baltimore over the past several days is a major statement from a community who had seen enough and had enough of bad policing.
Now I must say, that I have met with commissioner Batts at police headquarters and he is a good man with tremendous leadership skills. He has a heart for justice and a proven track record for solid leadership. His task is to reform the police department and revamp their perception within the community. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake visited my church on several occasions while I pastored in Baltimore and is a woman of high integrity. She does not just rest on the laurels of her father who was a highly respected, beloved, renown career politician in Baltimore city. But she stands on her own feet as a woman passionate and loyal to the people of Baltimore. These leaders will need our prayers as they move to create reform in a city that desperately needs it.
The truth of the matter is that the impoverished communities within Baltimore need a ray of hope. When we consider 75% of children are being raised by single mothers and 80 to 90% of third graders are reading below grade level, the future seems bleak. Hope is lost because there seems to be no way up or out. I have been in homes in south Baltimore with single mothers raising six children with all manner of behavioral issues related to Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and for them there seems to be little to no hope. When people loose hope they loose everything. When their environment is infested with crime, poverty, abandoned homes, low test scores, and then that is exacerbated by pervasive police brutality, the proverbial top will be blown of the can and we see what we just witnessed in Baltimore.
But here is the hope that we have and we must give to Baltimore and every major city that is a factory of hopelessness and despair: Jesus Christ. He is the only hope we have. He offers hope for justice in an unjust world. His message was and is still, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). Jesus was passionate for justice and that is one of the reasons He threw the money changers out of the temple. These money changers had conspired to defraud the people who came bringing their sacrifices to God. People were forced to pay inflated prices for animals in the temple courts because the sacrifices they brought from home were disallowed by the system. Jesus is always on the side of justice. He fights for the oppressed and downtrodden.
Ultimately when we join the protest against injustice on earth we join the fight with Jesus.
Kudos to the pastors in Baltimore who stood up for justice and against tyranny and anarchy at the same time.
Ultimately our world being sinful will always create enclaves of injustice. We will always have a cause to march for or fight against, and we dare not faint in the face of it. But let’s be clear, the only place where justice will reign unopposed is in heaven, when our Lord shall come and vanquish all the broken systems of humanity and He shall reign forever and ever. This is our ultimate hope for the people of Baltimore and every place else.