By Salome Chimuku, Ainsworth UCC, Portland, OR

profiling endGrowing up in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Portland, there were some things that were normal and expected. Such as that you’re inside before dark, say please and thank you or even being questioned by the police. In my 23 years of living I can say that I have been stopped over 25 times in my life. None of these have led to me being arrested, but it has left me with a strong impression of being publicly incarcerated.

I say publicly incarcerated because there is a pattern to all the stops. I was somewhere they thought I shouldn’t be. “What are you doing?”, “Where are you going?”, “Where is home?” All of these questions come under the guise of keeping me safe, but in actuality it makes me feel like a soft version of incarceration and segregation. Over the years it has conditioned me into knowing where I can walk somewhat free of questioning. Even when I worked for the Oregon State Legislature, if I left work late, I would be stopped. It got to the point where I stopped traveling to those places all together. 

The Search for a More Peaceable Kingdom

by Jeanine Elliott, Bethel Congregational UCC, Beaverton, OR
an eye for an eyeHere’s an old saying that deserves a second look: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Matthew 5: 38-39). Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: Don’t hit back at all. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. (Eugene Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

Despite the massive media coverage of all events violent and brutal, we live in a far safer world than our ancestors experienced. In his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker documents in 500 pages the decline in violence over human history. “I have to convince you that violence has really gone down…. knowing that the very idea invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger.” Despite Pinker’s evidence of the decline of violence, many people in this country have become so fearful that they believe that they must take protection and justice into their own hands. Policies, laws, and business practices have moved to reinforce these self-justice and self-protection actions. Do those policies, laws, and business practices escalate moments of violence or reduce them? Strong differences on this question divide us.

The recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman have brought many of these issues to the fore.