Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shooting of a Young Black Man in Madison

This was not the way for Madison to mark the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Instead of empathic observances of memory and determination, our beloved community of Madison was the site of the latest tragedy of police violence against young African American men.

The shooting of Anthony Robinson on the East side last night has shocked the community.  My mentioning this at yesterday's Saturday morning services brought forth empathy for the family of the victim Anthony Robinson and gratitude for bringing it to the moment in an appropriate way.

Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, has been an inspiration of hope to all in America who strive for the acceptance of diversity in American life.  Attending the 50th anniversary observances in Selma, he labeled the police violence of 50 years ago as "a clash of wills, a contest to determine the meaning of America."  But we all know that this struggle is no where near its hoped for victory.

The side of righteousness - the side of "tzedek," the Jewish value of 'doing what is right because it is right' - has yet to achieve what we pray for in this context: a nation - not to mention a world -  where skin color makes no difference, and where all are treated with dignity.  In a way, we are all Sisyphus, pushing that boulder of racial equality up the hill only to have us watch that burden roll back down upon us to threaten us - and threaten us it does!  Our continued American inability to achieve racial equality is a chronic and fatal cancer that has become resistant to the many medications that we have prescribed.

The NAACP of Dane County put out this statement last night in regard to this most recent shooting.  I end with this, because it says what needs to be said at this time:

"Each new case of an African American person killed is a grim reminder of the urgent need for reform in the use of force against American citizens. Although excessive use of force disproportionately affects African Americans and people living in poverty, it can affect people everywhere regardless of race, age or gender.

"Whenever this kind of tragedy occurs, questions arise about police training and appropriate use of force.  We must remind the investigating authorizes of the need for transparency, that black lives do matter, and sadly, another family is now experiencing the pain of loss in Madison, Wisconsin.
"We must push for solutions within our criminal justice system that will help keep our communities safe, our children protected and our officers properly trained.

"While there will be reactions from community leaders, faith leaders and concerned citizens, the NAACP calls for calm and vigilant monitoring of events as they unfold.  We will work with the Madison community and the Wisconsin NAACP State Conference of Branches to ensure justice for Tony Robinson."