President’s Blog #15 – 1 Black Victim, 5 Black Officers, and 4 Responses
January 30, 2023
I have been shaken and awakened by the violent attack, unjust treatment, and death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of law enforcement. To witness the brutal and callous way this man was treated by other men was jarring and disturbing. The fact that the victim was a Black man, and the five abusing law officers are Black men is disconcerting. The fact that Mr. Nichols was brutally kicked, maced, and struck multiple times by the officers to the point where he was in critical condition is simultaneously numbing and enraging.
This police attack triggered within me memories of the Detroit Revolt of 1967 and the West Coast urban gang violence of the 1980s. It seemed to my consciousness that the violent revolts in opposition to oppression and the internal rivalries of neighboring communities and philosophies were colliding and uniting in this Memphis, TN assault. We must strive to come over from these unequitable, unjust acts to a place where communities, legislatures, advocates, freedom fighters, religious leaders, and community leaders strive in unity and unison to overcome and prevent such tragedies.
Thus, as a seminary that focuses on confronting systems of power and privilege (including a commitment to anti-racism), this egregious offense raises several important injustices I feel compelled to call out. First, we must address the power differential in modern day policing. Police departments, attorneys general offices, and state and federal law enforcement agencies must hold bad actors accountable and must require witnessing officers to intervene when they see another officer using excessive force.
Second, we must broaden the supervision and oversight of policing to include communities affected by just and unjust practices. A community-led response team would be a plausible alternative to the SCORPION-type intervention of the Memphis Police. This type of alternative must include nonviolent strategies, substance abuse interventions, and behavioral and mental health expertise.
Third, we need Freedom Fighters who, in the words of John Lewis, are brave enough to cause “good trouble.” We are called to effectively confront external racism and internalized racism in our workplace, in our homes, in our communities, at our houses of worship, and in every system of opportunity and incarceration that exists.
Fourth, we need allies who are not self-centered and focused only on their contexts and conditions. Rather, we must strive to become allies who recognize that we all have issues and struggles and who view the other from a lens of love (rather than with judgment and condemnation).
So let us, the NBTS community, work, study, and spiritually commune around this matter of Black on Black and Blue on Black abuse. Let us recommit our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits to the cause of justice everywhere. I recall here my pledge at my installation as an RCA General Synod Professor of Theology,
I pledge my life to preach and teach the good news (gospel) of salvation in Christ, to build up and equip the church for mission in the world, to free the enslaved, to relieve the oppressed, to comfort the afflicted, and to walk humbly with God.
I was elated as I made this General Synod Professor pledge that my life’s mission had already been establish on 3 passages of scripture; Micah 6:8, 1 Peter 5:6, and Luke 4:18-19. I pray that your mission will be to join me in pledging your life and ministry to bring about the Reign of God in places like Memphis, TN; and every place on earth where injustice still reigns.
I conclude with the belief that we must pray and hope that we, as a nation and world, will overcome these unjust atrocities. But, in addition to overcoming in the spiritual realm,
We must also come over to our court-housing and advocate for justice.
We must come over to the police stations and ride along as justice advocates.
We must come over to our pulpits and classrooms and teach the justice of Matthew 5:6.
We must come over to the local school board and proclaim no more calculated distractions.
We must come over to our writing desk and send emails and letters to our legislators.
We must come over… and do the work of justice, even if it means being banished and being ostracized.
For our descent may be another’s ascent.
– Rev. Micah L. McCreary, M.Div., Ph.D., LCP
New Brunswick Theological Seminary