On Tuesday, a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who choked an unarmed African American male, Eric Garner, to death in July. Garner was being arrested for selling cigarettes and not paying taxes. After being wrestled to the ground by several police using an unauthorized technique, Mr. Garner’s final words were, “I can’t breathe.” The cops stood around and waited as he died. This troubling scene was recorded on video.
Just last week, a Cleveland police officer fatally shot a 12-year old African American boy, Tamir Rice, dead within a matter of seconds of arriving on the scene. Tamir was playing alone with a pellet gun. That killing was also recorded on video. The deaths of these two are now part of a growing list of police brutality against African American males which has resulted in outrage all across America.
In order to process, dialogue, and document history, advocacy, and responses to these and other important issues, many people have turned to the social media platform provided by Twitter. Twitter users employ hashtags (#) so that other users can see all the tweets related to a certain topic. In response to these incidents and more, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has become popular on Twitter, and it promises to be a critical tool for continuous dialogue in the future.
After the grand jury decision in Ferguson, I joined a Twitter Teach-In hosted by #Evangelicals4Justice (@Evangelicals4J). As a member of this diverse group of evangelicals, I responded to the question, “Why is it necessary to declare #BlackLivesMatter?” The theological answers were clear: Inside and outside of the womb, God cares about the senseless loss of a life (Gen 9:6); Because God demands an account for the loss of life, we must demand an answer as well (Gen 9:6); and because Black people are humans who are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:37).
During this Twitter exchange, I received a response from a white male evangelical asking, “Does that mean that other lives don’t matter? I’m tired of being discriminated against 4 being a white man.”
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