Chicago police car

Chicago police car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why are you wearing that?!” The question was typical, but the tone of voice was not.

“So you know we’re from the Church.” Brother Jim gave his usual response to the question asked of his blue-jean patchwork habit that stirred curiosity from onlookers in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

“That doesn’t tell me why you’re wearing that.” The cop insisted, a tone of arrogance and annoyance in his voice.

Brother Jim and I walked over to the unmarked cop car, where two officers were in the middle of arresting two individuals for some type of drug related activity.

Brother Jim kindly explained his habit further, mentioning the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi. The next line was striking.

“So, like Francis, you work with the dogs, if you know what I mean?” The male cop continued in his gruff tone that denoted he was on a power trip, motioning his head towards those being interrogated by the car. The two who had been handcuffed were clearly unnerved, sullen expression on their face and fear in their eyes, not capable of much more than mumbling throughout the entire exchange. The cop pursued a near-mocking line of questioning, asking if we wanted to save the souls in custody from the fires of hell.

This is not the first less-than-friendly encounter we have had with police and other security forces as we walk for peace throughout Chicago. We have had cops question us on a number of occasions, demand we leave areas in Cabrini Green, mock us for walking without a gun, and otherwise show a lack of support for our work or respect for our friends.

There is an underlying tension of two segregated worlds: We are supposed to belong to the world of the police—the functional, safer, educated society—and yet we make friends with the dejected, the violent, and those in desperate situations. We are traitors.

We are traitors because we do not adhere to the belief that gangbangers are not people, and that the poor deserve less dignity than the middle and upper classes. We are traitors for loving those who are put down by the plague of poverty instead of applauding those with the power to keep them there. We are traitors for being sympathetic to the sacrifices of mothers losing their sons and families unable to feed their children instead of being sympathetic to the sacrifice of the police and lawmakers to protect us from the poor, so we never have to see or experience realities like Back of the Yards.

And yet, we are loyal to a greater demand—the Biblical demand to treat everyone as a human being, to love the outcasts, and to forgive others for their wrongdoings, including the police force. We will not disrespect the police, nor get in the way of their work. But we would like to ask a question: How is dehumanizing the poor in these neighborhoods helping to quell crime?

Chicago has made the world news for its spike in murders this year. It is understandable that the police would be frustrated. However, the police are hindering their own success by demonizing those with criminal activity.

Dehumanization leads to resentment and anger. The anger builds until it is released—either by being heard, responded to, and addressed, or, as is the case here, in acts of more violence. Only by valuing human life—all of it—can we seek justice, restoring of a right relationship, that can move us forward.

No matter how many times someone is arrested, they will not submit to the legal code until they are respected. They will not be restored to the community by being beat down with degrading experiences that strip them of human dignity.

What happened when Jesus was a traitor? He ate meals with the outcasts and the sinners, until they were loved and valued enough to experience conversion. Until we love those who are downtrodden, we will never experience peace on the Chicago streets.

~Megan Sherrier, BSL
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About Brothers and Sisters of Love

The Mission of Brothers and Sisters of Love is to be a visible sign of Jesus’ Love, Peace, and Presence to the poor in gang-infested neighborhoods in Chicago and to be a bridge between gangs & the poor with the Church. This is done by: 1. Loving everyone 2. Trusting in God 3. Forgiving everyone everything 4. Never being afraid.
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2 Responses to Traitors.

  1. Trevor Tetzlaff says:

    Megan, thank you for carrying God’s Light in the darkness.

  2. Galen Osby says:

    It’s sad to hear of law enforcement pigeon-holing and/or dehumanizing individuals, even if they may be legitimate criminals. I see this as a huge problem with our criminal justice system (from law enforcement, to lawyers and judges, to jails and prisons, to the general public. Treating individuals as worthless and without hope of reform only serves to give them the impression that that is actually the case, actually who they are. It’s one more barrier to them being able to break out of the system, better themselves, move one from one unfortunate mistake or wrong-doing. I know there are great police officers, lawyers, judges, prison officials, non-profits, and individuals who do everything they can to legitimately assist those who are in the system or are in danger of winding up in the system, but stories like yours seem all too rampant, and maybe that’s just because they make good headlines, but even one is too many.

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