Bishop Jaime Soto asks that prayers of healing and hope be offered for our communities following the announcement of the Sacramento District Attorney, Anne Marie Schubert, regarding the police shooting of Stephon Clark. This decision will not settle the controversy surrounding this tragic event and the many questions about the use of force by law enforcement. Civic and community leaders will need divine wisdom as well as our prayers as we seek the path to healing and reconciliation with respect and justice for all. The family of Stephon Clark will especially need our prayers. In the wake of the district attorney's decision, we implore God for peace and protection on all those involved in any public demonstrations, both citizens and police.
Following is a statement by the Most Rev. Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento, concerning the decision by Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert not to file criminal charges in the Stephon Clark shooting incident.
“The violent deaths of Stephon Clark and other young African-American men are a tragedy, the horrible result of our deeply frayed social fabric. Much examination has been given to the laws governing the appropriate use of force by police. At its core, does race unduly influence the motivations and circumstances in the utilization of deadly force? The same suspicion unsettles the nature of all our social institutions.
“This prevailing restless racial mistrust smolders in many of the harrowing encounters between young Black males and law enforcement. When it ignites violently and bodies are strewn on the ground, hearts are embittered and minds explode with enraged incriminations. Light must be brought to bear on the conduct of those involved but this same light should also awaken the conscience and affect the conduct of all our institutions. Black lives matter not only in the pursuit of law and order; they matter to the thriving of the whole community. If the latter is left unanswered in any purposeful way then the former will always be put to the test in every encounter between police and African-Americans.
“Law enforcement and legislators must answer to the principle of equal justice for all, but the use of force by police is not the only question that needs to be addressed. The necessary forces of education, commerce, and faith must be applied in a manner that ignites greater social cohesion and inclusion. Do the many resources for sound development and civic discourse matter to those who are often left on margins?
“A level playing field is meaningless if communities are told to watch from the stands.
“Taking to the streets becomes the only recourse when public institutions fail to matter to those who are hurting. This free expression should be protected and respected by all those involved. Still, protest as reprisal will not be enough and risks deviating from what matters most. It will not address the educational advancement of our youth. It will not build houses or create jobs. It will not foster a diverse network of neighbors where children grow together respecting one another as brothers and sisters. In all these vital concerns will the voice, the talents, and the ambitions of the African-American community matter?
“Voices on the street must also become votes in a ballot box, conversations at council and school board meetings, unison song in churches. Hands held while marching must become handshakes among neighbors, hands helping a stranger in need. The energy of a crowd must become the engines of enterprise and commerce. The echoed chants are not just for others to hear. They have to echo in each of our own hearts and minds.”