The death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore is yet another tragic loss in a series of apparent criminal acts perpetrated by certain law enforcement officers against African American men. The Church of God in Christ offers our sincere condolences to the Gray family and to the many families throughout the nation devastated by the loss of loved ones under similar circumstances.
The swift indictment of the six police officers responsible for the death of Freddie Gray is the correct message: that no one is above the law and that the lives of young African American men have value. We are prayerful that the Gray family will ultimately receive the justice that was denied to the families of so many young men who lost their lives at the hands of the police.
Police brutality along with racial inequalities in the criminal justice system have had a negative impact on African Americans since the end of slavery. In the sixties, it was the primary cause of rage among blacks identified by the Kerner Commission Report. Since then it has continued to plague African Americans of every generation provoking outrage, protests and even riots.
Harvard sociologist Bruce Western argues that the riots of the sixties fueled a national backlash and a preoccupation with law and order which was the catalyst for the current epidemic of mass incarceration which is decimating the black community.
We decry the cruel victimization that is prevalent in the inner city and seek to highlight the root causes of the injustice that African Americans across the nation suffer. We urge the immediate adoption and implementation of social policies and laws that will stem the tide of violence unleashed on our citizens by those charged with protecting and serving.
Despite the injustice African Americans face at the hands of society, in general, and law enforcement, in particular, violence and rioting are never justified. Therefore, we condemn such behavior in the strongest terms possible. Violence is antithetical to Christian teaching and counterproductive.
We must continue to follow the example of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work of so many other Civil Rights leaders who won an end to segregation through non-violent tactics.
We both urge and support the continuance of peaceful demonstrations which typify our preferred response in Baltimore and where ever the cry for justice needs to be heard.
The Church of God in Christ will continue working in concert with government and civil society to achieve change. We will aggressively advocate for enacting social policies and laws that will ameliorate the current, untenable situation and reverse the militarization of our local police forces while strengthening community policing practices.
The Federal Government’s recent decision to provide funding for body cameras for police forces in small and medium sized cities is an excellent example of policies that can lead to true progress. Research indicates that both police officers and the public are more judicious in their actions when body cameras are used.
We believe the ultimate prescription for our inner cities must give all citizens access to quality education, jobs that pay a living wage, a fair criminal justice system and policies that strengthen the family and promote financial literacy.
With the help of God, we can turn our urban neighborhoods around.
Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr.
Presiding Bishop & Chief Apostle
Seventh in Succession
Church of God in Christ