Presbyterians Today

OCT-NOV 2017

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 19 children of the living God." With that statement, King makes a claim, rightly, that black people, every bit as much as white people — and all other people of color as well — are indeed children of the living God. We as Christians are called to honor the somebodiness of all God's children. From the creation of humanity in God's image (Genesis 1:26–27) to the prophetic vision of God's diverse kingdom (Isaiah 2:2) to Jesus' notion of love and justice for all, God's love of all kinds of people shows up again and again in the Bible. Time and time again Jesus encounters people whose somebodiness has been dimin- ished — lepers, children, the woman at the well and others. All have been diminished by other people. As Christians, we are called to honor the somebodiness of all God's children, just as Jesus did. Part of doing so is acknowledging that their somebodiness, like our own, is not dependent on their behavior or any of their personal characteristics. In the wake of the acquittal of Philando Castile's killer, the King Center tweeted, "Extol #PhilandoCastile's virtues, but know: Even if he didn't serve children, even if he didn't love his family, he should still be alive." True to the person the King Center represents, this tweet reminds us that the value of Castile's life, his somebodiness, was not rooted in his actions, but in the fact that he was a child of the living God. He was somebody in God's eyes, somebody whose life mattered to God, and somebody whose life must matter to us. We white Christians hopefully have no trouble affirming this truth. But what we may have more difficulty with is acknowledging that society as a whole does not operate in such a way that this truth is lived out on a daily basis. Confronting my white privilege The fact is that racism exists, as does white privilege. Some bodies still matter more than other bodies. From the time slaves were brought into this country as property, we as a nation have diminished the somebodiness of black people in this country. I've seen it happen to my children. I know many "good Christian white folk" who continue to deny the reality of white privilege. And to a degree, I get it. It's not that they don't care, or that they're being dismissive, but they have trouble wrapping their mind around the concept that they are privileged. White privilege is being able to take our "somebodiness" for granted. We are treated as "somebody" pretty much everywhere we go. But that is not the case for everyone. And that is especially not the case for black Americans. Keeshan Harley was a 21-year- old college student in New York City when Soledad O'Brien interviewed him for a CNN special series she did called "Black and Blue." Keeshan had never been in trouble, never commit- ted a single crime, nor been charged with one. He was — and presumably still is — a good kid, working on getting his college degree. But when O'Brien interviewed him in 2014, he had been stopped and frisked more than 100 times. More than 100 times he went through this, before the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policies were scaled back in 2015 — even though he's never done anything wrong. Because of the neighborhood he lives in. Because he has black skin. He talks about the humiliation of being told by police officers to put his hands against the wall, getting patted down as people are walking by, staring. More than 100 times he has gone through this — even though he's never done anything wrong. Imagine how those repeated experiences of being stopped by police would affect your sense of somebodi- ness. Especially when we factor in a recent Stanford University study in Oakland, California, that found that police officers were likely to speak to white community members more respectfully than to black community members. We white Americans have the privilege of being able to expect that when we are stopped by police, the officer will speak to us with respect and not overreact out of fear when we make movements to follow their instructions to get out our license and registration. We expect to be able to move through the world around us without having to worry about such things, without having to even think about them. Our somebodiness is taken for granted, by others and by ourselves. But for so many black Americans, A Stanford University study has shown that police officers often use more respectful language when talking with white people. GETTY IMAGES

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