(The following was written prior to the declaration of a mistrial in the trial of police officer Wes Kerrick in Charlotte, NC)
As we anticipate a verdict in the trial of Wes Kerrick, a swirl of emotions surround me. Kerrick is the police officer accused of the wrongful death (use of excessive force) of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed African American man who was shot ten times in 2013.
I think of the Ferrell family suffering the loss of a child who was full of potential and life. The death of a child is the most painful loss we can know, and I cannot imagine compounding that suffering with the emotional firestorm that comes in these circumstances: “excessive force,” the bitter intrusion of “race,” the national attention that turns a tragedy into a spectacle.
I think of the family of Wes Kerrick, whose lives have also been irreparably changed. What does it do to your psyche to put on a bullet-proof vest every single day? What does it do to the soul of law enforcement officers who begin every day with this sober reminder that they job sometimes means making split-second, life-or-death decisions?
I think of the rage that so obviously exists in parts of the black community in America – evidenced in responses in Ferguson, Baltimore, NYC. I grieve for our entire nation that there are entire communities experiencing hopelessness and helplessness, the despair and disenfranchisement that racism continues to breed in our “land of the free.”
I think of the confusion, misunderstanding, disdain, the feelings of resentment and hatred that so obviously exists in part of the white community in America – evidenced in more subtle ways today. But racism is tenacious, and I hear its influence in prejudiced hearsay and carefully crafted “concerns,” which betray the white privilege much of American cannot yet admit.
I think of my nation, still divided, still judging one another not by the content of character, but by the color of skin. I think that there are a lot of very complicated factors in this case, but what I know is that this mostly comes down to America’s Original Sin, and unless and until we can finally own it and engage the very hard work of healing we’ll always be waiting on a jury…
But the verdict is in.