In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Brother Jim and I began to hear bits and pieces of a news story that did not form a coherent narrative nor receive large media attention.
Here’s what we do know: A young man, Jamaal Moore, aged 23, was shot and killed by the Chicago police. He was suspected of armed robbery. The police were attempting to arrest him after chasing him by car, and there was some type of struggle. We know this man was unarmed, but, according to the police, was under the suspicion of having a weapon. We know the police officer who shot Jamaal was female. We also know that Jamaal, before being shot, was run over by the police car during the crash that ended the police chase. Some say that he was then shot in the back, others that he was handcuffed. The police reported that he struggled with a police officer, got up from the ground and charged the female officer. The surveillance cameras around the area have been confiscated and wiped by the Chicago police, so no one story can be confirmed beyond hearsay.
We know that there were riots following the shooting at Garfield Blvd and Ashland Ave, where angry witnesses threw bricks and bottles at the police, while the police showed up in battalions with automatic weapons and combat gear to “keep the peace.” Cell phone videos online show police beating down bystanders and amateur videographers who attempted to document the event.
I’m not about to put blame on one party over another. Jamaal was suspected of armed robbery, and the police are suspected of an unjust killing. The fact remains, however, that a mother and grandmother had to bury their child the day after Christmas, and a toddler is without his father. A woman, called to serve and protect, had to wake up and return to work having killed another human being, something she deemed necessary by either her own judgment or fear. There are no victories here.
It is easy to get angry at one side: Either poor young men are wrong for living violent lives and constantly endangering society, or the police are unjustified in shooting and killing this man, acting on something other than their duty to protect.
It would be nice if the world had clear notions of right and wrong, proper and unjust. However, we live in the murky grey of people acting out of their skewed visions of right. Look at the current debates: How should the U.S. fix the deficit? How should it deal with Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iran? How should states regulate guns in light of a year of Mass shootings and over 500 murders in Chicago alone? Whichever viewpoint you support, it is important to realize that the other side has an equal passion in their own sense of right. Most act out of a sense of correcting an injustice.
When both sides of the fight struggle for their own sense of justice, the perspective eventually narrows and we all suffer the unintended consequences. Chicago is no different. The poor have failed for decades to gain power and a sense of dignity. The government has struggled for answers to violence and poverty.
The tensions increase on both sides until we have tragedies like Jamaal’s shooting. His death becomes a symbol of the greater clash between unbalanced living conditions and the need for a clean, safe, upright society.
In order to transcend any of these issues that keep our world in a gridlock of hatred today, it is time to re-evaluate our sense of right. Are we flexible enough to shift our perspective and create new, comprehensive solutions? Gang members must not be seen as criminals without a future, and police must not been seen as a militant army used to oppress the poor. Can we learn to love and forgive both Jamaal and the female police officer? Can we begin to see opposing sides with a humanitarian eye? We must learn to hear the rights that are demanded behind the wrongs that are committed, and act to restore our entire community.
May 2013 bring a return to love over hatred, forgiveness over grudges, and peace over violence, in Chicago and throughout our world.
–Megan Cottam, BSL
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