After The Stockley Verdict

Rev. Karen Anderson

From Rev. Karen Anderson, president of Metropolitan Congregations United:

This September the eyes of the nation once again focused on St. Louis.  Not because in the years after Ferguson we’d made significant progress such as successfully raising the minimum wage in the city, not because the health disparity of the great Delmar divide was lessening, no we were back in the spotlight because after six years of waiting for justice it once again eluded us.  The difference between 2014 and 2017 is that the officer was at least charged and taken to trial but the outcome was not different.  What makes this not guilty so difficult to comprehend is that we have the voice of Jason Stockley, on his police videocam, stating that he was going to kill Anthony Lamar Smith just minutes before he shot him five times.  What makes this so difficult is that the decision of his guilt or innocence was left to a judge whose last statement of his verdict implies that in this case justice was anything but blind.  Judge Wilson stated that ‘finally, the court observes, based on its nearly thirty years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly,” revealing his own racial biases.  This verdict once again affirmed what so many of us know to be true ALL lives cannot possibly matter until Black Lives Matter.

And so once again the people have taken to the streets to denounce the state sanctioned murder of black citizens, to speak against a system which continues to support the disproportionate extrajudicial homicide of people of color at the hands of those called to protect and serve all citizens.  Once again, the streets are filled with the voices of those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Folks who are tired of living under a system of structural violence perpetrated and supported by a system of white supremacy.  The streets are filled with those who are determined to shine a light on the injustices people of color face in this city even if it means disrupting the status quo and making some people uncomfortable.

Many people are calling for peace without realizing that without justice there can be no peace.  I see this as a God moment, a divine interruption of the status quo, a moment of God’s disruptive grace.  God’s disruptive grace is God’s revelation of the absence of justice and it always disrupts the status quo.  I’m reminded of the story of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple to bring revelation that things were not as they should be.  I’m sure it created cognitive dissonance in those present whose emotions must have run the gamut from fear, to anger, to confusion and disorientation.  It was a disruptive grace, a moment of revelation and recognition providing the opportunity for change to occur.

This moment is critical for us as a community, this moment can make or break our city.  It is not a time to assuage the discomfort of the coming of justice but rather it is time for us to wrestle with the question of what does justice for all really look like?  It’s time for us to heed the call to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God and our fellow citizens.  It’s time for us to raise our voices against oppressive systems which deny the God given and Constitutional rights of all citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s time for the people of God to no longer be complicit through our silence with unjust systems.  It’s time for us to operate in the grace of disruption until we no longer have to fill the streets declaring that Black Lives Matter because at long last they will.


MCU Staff