Diocesan Statement: Violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin
KENOSHA, WISCONSIN PROTESTS:
A STATEMENT FROM THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF MISSOURI
The Reverend Marc D. Smith, Ph.D.
Bishop’s Deputy for Gun Violence Prevention
The all-too-familiar tragedy of a young black man, Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer Aug. 23, 2020, and the protests it sparked sadly mark a summer of deep trouble and racial strife in our country. The murder of two of those who were protesting the shooting, allegedly by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a self-described defender of police, further punctuated our profound national divisions and the violence some will mobilize to resolve them.
To be sure, we do not know all the details surrounding Jacob Blake’s shooting or the killing of unarmed, non-threatening protesters. That discovery is for journalists and the criminal justice system. What is clear, however, is that centuries of structural racism, the increasing rhetoric of intolerance and hate and the ready access to firearms have drastically inflamed already superheated passions. Especially because of the circumstances surrounding the murder of protesters in Kenosha by a minor with a military-style rifle, it is with particular outrage that we learned this week of the introduction of HCS HB 16 in the current Special Session of the Missouri General Assembly, a bill that would allow people to give guns to children without their parents’ permission.
At a time when our nation is so pained, our prayers for the victims of gun violence, for police armed with the power of life and death and for those radicalized by hate are essential. However, our faith also calls us to more. It summons us to action in the public square. In our own congregations and communities, we must lead honest conversations on our complicity in perpetuating racist social, political, economic and, yes, even religious systems. Together, we must build a shared framework for the process of forgiveness and reconciliation that crosses cultural and partisan barriers. We must continue to stand in opposition to violent extremism, as well as police misconduct. And, we must engage the political process to promote safety rather than pander to fear. May we together lead in this effort to summon the better angels of our nature across our deeply troubled country.