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I watched the video yesterday of the murder of Laquan McDonald. I wasn’t sure if I should watch it. Viewer discretion was advised and I hesitated. I don’t watch the news on TV. Partly because we don’t have a TV in an area of the house where we can watch it casually. And partly because I don’t want to.
But I decided that I had to watch the video released yesterday for a couple reasons. First, I think that White people have a responsibility to watch it. The White police officer opened fire and shot 16 rounds into a 17-year-old kid within six seconds of getting out of his squad car. Laquan McDonald wasn’t charging him. He wasn’t threatening him. He was walking away from him. White folks are culpable for this. We are an inextricable part of the system and the culture that creates the space for this sort of thing to happen.
Second, I watched it for my Black friends. In the words of Sue Monk Kidd, “There’s no pain on earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.” I can’t do much but I can be a benevolent witness.
Yesterday our Community Group read about God changing Jacob’s name to Israel in We Make the Road By Walking by Brian McLaren. We discussed some of the people in the Bible who were down-trodden, overwhelmed by their circumstances and under the foot of an oppressor. And McLaren points out that “…God keeps showing up, not in the victors who have defeated or exploited or rejected a weaker rival, but in the weaker ones who have been defeated or rejected.”
Our conversation reminded me of a song that we sang in chapel my first year in college. It was by John Stothers (I think). It was called I Will Change Your Name and it is one of the most memorable things from my first semester away from home. I was lonely and scared and I remember it was such a balm to sing.
Today the song was running through my head and I prayed it over the Black community. As a lonely and scared 18-year-old I saw the song as for myself. And it was for me, I guess. But now I see it also, and much more so, for a people who have been exploited and rejected for centuries in this country; a people who don’t need to see the video to know what’s on it; a people whose kids can be shot 16 times in less than 16 seconds and then made to watch while the White folks scramble around erasing videos and trying to cover it up.
I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid
I will change your name
your new name shall be
Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One
Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Seeks My Face