Erica Hunt

Erica Hunt is a recent graduate of Kilns College in Bend, Ore., where she studied the life of Vincent Harding. She lives in St. Paul, Minn.

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Seeing the World As It Should Be

by Erica Hunt 10-25-2018
What does it take to move beyond civil rights to a "more advanced democracy"?
FREEDOM LANGUAGE HELPED ME to understand the grief and rage of Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile who witnessed his killing by a police officer in 2016.
 

Reynolds arrived at an early morning protest in St. Paul, Minn., a few hours after Philando’s death. I heard her tell her story to a small crowd gathered on the street. Weeping, she shared how impossibly stuck they felt in the 74 seconds between stopping their car for the police and Castile being shot multiple times.

Castile was never given a chance to show identification because he was shot as he reached for his wallet. He tried to tell the officer about his legally licensed handgun, but the screaming officer didn’t seem to hear.

As Castile, Reynolds, and her young child ran errands on that summer night, civil rights laws did not protect their “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowed for Castile’s employment at an elementary school and made legal their right to move through town. But these rights were not enough to protect Castile’s freedom to live.

What is democracy?

As U.S. Christians and others fight to defend the space for justice created by civil rights movements of the past, another theme rises: What does freedom mean in America today? What does Reynold’s rage require of people of faith?

At a minimum, it requires moving beyond a Sunday school version of democracy, as Southern Freedom Movement leader and historian Vincent Harding put it in 2002. “A solution of the present crisis will not take place unless ... [we] work for it. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable ... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle. ... This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action,” Harding said, quoting Martin Luther King’s Stride Toward Freedom.

 

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