Message from Dean Greg Sterling, Yale Divinity School


Dear Colleagues,

I spent last week in St. Louis, MO, attending a conference. It was impossible to be there without thinking about Ferguson and the death of Michael Brown. I flew home for a day and then to Seoul, Korea. On the flight, I read Leah Gunning Francis's Ferguson and Faith that chronicles the role of clergy in the aftermath of Brown's death.

Several hours ago I learned about the tragic deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA. The videos are hard to watch. Not again, not again. How can this continue to happen? How can we permit it to happen?

Now there is news that sniper(s) have killed five police and injured another five in Dallas. I am not sure how this will end. I will be in en route home when it does. Five police officers will never return home. They will never embrace their spouses or hug their children again. This is as wrong as the violence to Castile and Sterling. Murder is murder no matter whether it is committed by police or a sniper.

We cry with Diamond Reynolds for her boyfriend Philando Castile, with Cameron Sterling for his father Alton, and with the families of the police officers who were doing their jobs. We cry for ourselves, for tolerating racial profiling and the wrongful use of force. We cry for tolerating a culture of violence where wrongful acts of violence begat more violence. We cry for the immoral structures of a society that produce the tensions that motivate the horrific events that have occurred.

I learned about the shootings because a YDS student wrote me and expressed the fear and disorientation that he and his classmates feel. African-American males should not have to worry about being stopped by police, but they do. African-American males should not have to worry that police are scrutinizing them, but they do. African-American males should not have to wonder if the next story of a police shooting will be about them, but they do.

At the same time, police should not have to wonder who will shoot at them next. Their families should not have to worry that vigilante violence will indiscriminately target their loved one. Their children should not have to worry that their parent will never come home because someone in another part of the country committed a wrong, a wrong that their own parent would condemn.

We must change the system not only for the Philando Castiles, Alton Sterlings, and five dead police officers, but for the people whom we know and care about deeply. This is not only about Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas, it is about Connecticut. For me this is about YDS African-American students. It is about Ronnell Higgins, our African-American police chief, and the officers on his staff. May we all do everything that we can to eliminate racism, to end our culture of violence, and to support those who need us.

Greg Sterling