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The Letter from the Dallas County Jail

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Vemon Bryant/Dallas Morning News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear people of God,

 

I can’t breathe.

 

People are so confused. Everyone thinks that protesters are the agitators across the country. Believe me, I experienced who the real agitators are last night.

 

You will find them next to the people who are gasping for air.

 

Throughout the night, over 500 people marched through the streets of Dallas to remind the populace that the real agitators in our city and nation are the uncontrolled militarized police forces that daily do violence to people of color and the wider population. The Dallas Police Department reinforced these notions over and over with arbitrary arrest and requests after arbitrary arrest and requests. Who do the police work for? There was a screaming woman of color pulled out of the middle of the crowd and arrested for no apparent reason. There was a woman arrested for standing on the sidewalk. Even though over 500 people marched up and down street after street all night, there were only a handful of people arrested for marching in the street in what was described as a “show of force” by one officer. I was one of those.

 

The copes were on top of us and we couldn’t breathe.

 

When I was arrested, I didn’t resist. I calmly got into the back of a van. Though I felt like the situation I found myself in was an injustice, I wasn’t angry with those who arrested me. I actually have tremendous compassion for them. I feel like they are so very often unwitting pawns in a much larger game. I wasn’t surprised that the police got most forceful and angry when marchers began to disrupt private enterprise. Our economic system has brutalized bodies of persons of color since the arrival of European settlers and our police have now become the chief protectors of economic inequality.

 

Money is choking out our conscience.

 

One of the officers I encountered at the Dallas County Jail informed me that pastors shouldn’t get arrested. I couldn’t believe the ignorance of such a statement. After I confirmed that he was a Christian, I questioned, “Did you know that the founder of our faith was arrested and executed?” The officer was befuddled. Our churches make people feel safe in the knowledge that Jesus doesn’t require anything of you. Our theology often looks something like this, Jesus is Santa Clause and has a bag full of toys that he is ready to hand out. I wish that there were so many pastors willing to get arrested in Dallas that the jails would overflow. I don’t think it was an accident that I had just walked past some of the most storied Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian spaces in Dallas before I got arrested. What if all the members of those churches were out in the street? We wouldn’t have a problem with police brutality. How long must we wait for churches to follow Jesus into the dangerous space of seeking justice and righteous transformation in our world?

 

People are choking and we call them other.

 

The number of people of color in the waiting room at the Dallas County Jail was astounding. If anyone needs any evidence of that our system that is unbelievably oppressive to people of color…look no further than our jail. One of the more interesting comments of the night came from an officer of color. Looking around the room, he declared the entire room to be “criminals.” I think he forget that we are innocent until proven guilty piece. Regardless, I was amazed at how quickly he othered the people in the room. I think this is the primary problem of both the police and the church in our nation. These institutions survive on profiling the other and deciding that they have no value and need to be controlled at all costs. The police and our churches are a reflection of the evil in our own hearts and often live fully into this evil.

 

We are choking.
This is the hour to get out into the streets and create some air.

 

Amen.

Rev. Jeff Hood

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