This past week we have been shaken by the sniper killing of five uniformed officers at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas. The killings were apparently the work of a lone gunman who was not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. The tragedy followed national outrage after police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castille in Minneapolis.
In Dallas, Shetamia Taylor, a black woman, participated in the peaceful protest with her four boys. When the gunshots rang out she saw an officer hit near her. The office warned her to run for safety. She did. But she was immediately hit in the leg. She fell to the ground. When the officers saw she was hit, they gathered around her to protect her. “”I saw another officer get shot ... Right there in front of me.” She said. The police loaded Taylor into their bullet riddled police car and took her to Baylor Hospital where she is expected to make a full recovery. The officer that was hit died. Taylor wept as she thanked the police department, “They were really heroes for us.”
The tragic deaths in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas reminded us that prejudice and racial tension always lie just below the surface. Like lava beneath the earth, racism and cultural prejudice seep through cracks in the seemingly peaceful landscapes and, on occasion, erupt with devastating violence.
We witnessed a similar eruption 24 years ago when smoke curled above Los Angeles for 60 days following the acquittal of white police officers in the video-taped beating of Rodney King. Rioting black mobs dragged white and Hispanic truck drivers from their cabs and began beating them in retaliation. The police abandoned the scene. Four civilians ran to rescue Reginald Denny, a white truck driver who was pulled from his cab and beaten with a brick. Minutes later, at the same intersection, the angry mob dragged Fidel Lopez from his truck, smashed his forehead and attempted to slice off his ear. A black minister nearby ran to the scene, threw himself over Lopez' bleeding body and screamed, “If you kill him you will have to kill me too!”
Reginald Denny’s four rescuers and the black minister who saved Fidel Lopez and the officers who protected Shetamia Taylor remind us of Jesus’ story regarding race and prejudice. If we would “love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” we must love those who are different than we are. Like the Samaritan who stopped to render aid to a dying victim beside the road, we must realize that every stranger is our neighbor, every man is our brother, every woman our sister.
Racial prejudice is a global problem. It exists in every generation, on every continent, in every nation. It exists between white, red, black, brown and yellow. It exists between generations and cultures. We are prone to fear and suspect those who look different, talk different and act differently than we do. Only faith that lifts us beyond our provincial prejudices can save us. The Apostle Paul, who grew up as an ambitious Pharisee and outgrew his prejudices through faith in Christ, wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”