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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Violence Out of Control

As I prepared to relocate back to Durham this summer, the news about policing and its impact on minorities was not good.  I had read or heard too many stories of young adults shot in police custody or by police, both in Durham and around the state of North Carolina.  There is no replacing the life of young people killed by gun violence, and when it happens under questionable circumstances as part of policing, the pain is intensified.  I took some consolation knowing that many of my fellow church people and ministers had played a leading role in calling for an audit of policing practices in Durham.  The City Manager's report is a sign that some things may get better.  Yet we wait to see if there will be more than paper and lip service.

Durham's situation is not good, and it is a microcosm of a national trend toward militarized, threatening, violence-prone policing.  Conscientious citizens can't help but give attention to cases across the land in which unarmed, non-threatening young men and women have been quickly and summarily shot by police.  Targeting neighborhoods becomes a way to justify racial profiling, and the cycle of harassment, imprisonment, and violent death spirals out of control.

Culturally fostered fear and distrust of people who don't look like oneself is all too common.  Christians ought to know that this sort of prejudice is sinful.  As an act of Christian discipleship, I must lend my voice and my feet to the outcry for change.  Almost all police officers understand this problem and respect and value the lives of citizens.  But we cannot allow police departments to shield and protect officers who either out of fear or anger do not make every effort to protect the lives of fellow human beings.  Violence cannot be the first option in policing, and we pray that building community relationships and accountability can make it the rarest of occurrences.

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