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Healing racial prejudice in policing

A Christian Science perspective: How to take a prayerful approach in healing prejudice in law enforcement. 

Recent violent incidents in several cities in the United States – and the protests and demonstrations that followed them – have again brought to the surface the long-held concern that African-American men and boys are often the targets of mistaken or excessive force by white police officers. In addition to an incident last month in which white alcohol-enforcement officers violently forced an African-American college student in Charlottesville, Va., to the ground, a police officer fatally shot a black man fleeing after a routine traffic stop last Saturday (see “Violent arrest at UVA: Should alcohol officers act like cops?” and “After S.C. police shooting, a radically different response,” from CSMonitor.com, respectively).

Certainly appreciation and respect are due to police officers, who risk their lives in service to their communities, and many of whom endeavor to exercise discernment and right action in the heat of the moment. But the willingness to recognize wrong attitudes and practices – and to change them – is a component of demonstrating wisdom in carrying out the enforcement of law. The ideals of impartiality and fairness cannot be demonstrated in policing without the exercise of such wisdom.

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Tragic and high-profile cases can and should prompt progress and healing for the current challenges in policing.

In the different context of my own life, I have seen that devoted prayer brings harmony to discordant situations of various kinds when I’ve learned what’s true about God and His creation, and have applied it understandingly. As prayer is effective in individual lives, it can also be effective when applied to public issues. Such prayer can specifically address the issues that lie at the root of racial prejudice.

For instance, of fundamental importance is the truth that God is divine Love – and divine Mind, the intelligent creator of all. The Bible says, “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). Understanding that every individual is created by God in His image is foundational to the healing of racial prejudice. As we begin to comprehend this spiritual reality of everyone’s true individuality, it becomes clearer that racial harmony and equality in our communities are not only important but divinely natural, because racial prejudice is not in accord with God’s law of universal love. In the Bible, Moses’ brother, Aaron, and their sister, Miriam, express prejudice against Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman: “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married” (Numbers 12:1). But events unfold to show Aaron and Miriam that their attitude is wrong (see Numbers 12:5-16).

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote in her poem “The New Century”: “Love hath one race, one realm, one power” (“Poems,” p. 22). This inspired statement shows that, in the reality of God’s creation, the concept of racial division is wholly excluded. In divine Love, conflict and hatred have no foundation.

When we endeavor to understand and live this truth, we are contributing to more harmony among people, regardless of race, including interactions between minority groups and the police. The governor of Virginia has announced a mandate to retrain officers in the division of the police responsible for the incident involving the college student who was forced to the ground. And reforms are reportedly under way in other police departments, including Ferguson, Mo., where an evenly balanced city council was elected for the first time (see “Ferguson’s city council is now half African-American: Will things change?,” CSMonitor.com). While this progress continues, we can support it through our prayers by understanding the equality and goodness of all of God’s children and expressing more love and equity in our own thoughts and actions.