Bishop Lee on Facing the Death of Laquan McDonald

November 25, 2015

Everywhere we turn this morning in Chicago, we are confronted by images of Laquan McDonald, a young black man, being gunned down on one of our city streets by Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago Police officer.

The video of Laquan’s death, released by the mayor’s office just hours after the officer was charged with first-degree murder, makes it impossible for us to turn away from the violence that has been done in our name by this police officer and by too many other police officers who are charged with protecting us. It makes it impossible for us to discount the power of systemic racism to distort our community. And it makes it impossible for us to tell ourselves that the peril of being young and black in Chicago is not our problem.

If you are stunned and grief-stricken this morning, as I am, I invite you to pray for the repose of the soul of Laquan, for our wounded city, and most especially for Laquan’s mother, who is facing a day, and then many more days, of being besieged by graphic images and detailed descriptions of the most painful moment any parent could face. She did not want this video to be released, and although justice may be served by it, she will have to endure fresh grief many times as a result.

And then I invite you to act. Raise your voice in support of the Interfaith Coalition Against Racism, of which the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago is a member, and its advocacy to demilitarize the Chicago Police, make the police force reflect the community it serves, establish a civilian review board with indictment power, and create more restorative justice programs with adequate funding. Commit yourself to having conversations about race and racism at church, at work, and in your community; if you want ideas about how to begin, read the most recent Thrive! magazine, which is devoted to issues of racism, poverty and violence. And consider how you can support young black men and women in Chicago with summer jobs through our CROSSwalk to Work program and through other initiatives that are working tirelessly to prevent the violence that tears our community apart again and again.

May Christ who heals all divisions give us courage to be his body in our bleeding world, strength to face the video of Laquan’s death, grace to see all of the other images of violence and death that surround us, and compassion to comfort all those who mourn.