Response to the Yanez Verdict on Friday, June 16th
Yesterday we had a wonderful worship service with Mill City Church focused on God’s commandment to love our neighbor. We heard stories from Mill City people who are doing this and seeing some amazing things come from their relationships with those around them. But there was another story, impactful and important, that needed to be recognized as well.
I’m sorry that I failed to talk about Friday’s ruling in the case of Officer Jeronimo Yanez. Officer Yanez was cleared of all criminal charges related to the shooting death of Philando Castile, following a painful trial for the families and communities affected on both sides. Several people in our congregation were surprised that this verdict was not addressed during our worship gathering today.
The fact that a white male pastor was giving the sermon today symbolized the privilege that many white people have – a privilege that allows them to ignore or downplay the importance of such a verdict on our American cultural fabric. This stands in stark contrast to communities of color, particularly the African-American community in this case, where it is not possible to escape the impact of this ruling.
I am deeply saddened by the fear that many of my African-American friends feel as they simply drive around their communities each day. I am saddened that many black fathers have to teach their sons how to protect their bodies on a daily basis. I am saddened by the fact that for people of color, their character and identity comes second to the color of their skin when matters of justice arise; that their character and identity – their inherent goodness/rightness and belonging in our world – must be dissected and proven (rather than assumed) in ways that I as a white male may never experience.
And I am saddened by how often I am blind to this reality.
I have deep respect for the work of our policemen and policewomen. Their work is critical in the lives of our communities, and the personal sacrifices they make to keep our communities safe cannot be understated. I recognize the challenge of the constant life-and-death decisions they have to make day-in and day-out, often in a matter of seconds. I am grateful for their service.
I can also, in my opinion, believe at the same time that there are clear systemic problems with the way people of color are treated by our criminal justice system, here in Minnesota and in our nation. These problems have to be addressed and can no longer be ignored – they must be addressed honestly, transparently, and with shared hope and accountability for a better future.
I mourn the loss of Philando Castile’s life along with the many others who have suffered like him. May God comfort his family in this time.
Pastor Michael Binder – Mill City Church