Christianity,  News

Trip Lee, “It coulda been me”

Trip Lee has written a new song expressing how he feels about the recent tragedies in Ferguson and New York (listen above). In short, these events have left him thinking, “It could’ve been me.” No matter what your feelings are about the non-indictments in these particular cases, what Trip is talking about here is absolutely essential. For me at least, hearing such stories over the last two years from brothers like Trip, Voddie, Thabiti, and others has transformed my view of the African American experience. Don’t miss this.


  • Esther O'Reilly

    Actually, it’s not essential, it’s unhelpful and unneeded right now. It’s also insulting to the innocent people of Ferguson whose homes, businesses and livelihoods were destroyed, because it shifts the focus to how unaffected black people “feel” about the verdict. Why are Christian African-American voices turning this into a conversation about how hurt their feelings are by the grand jury’s decision, instead of calling out the havoc that’s been wreaked by this town’s own community? That would be a really timely, relevant word. Also, why are people drawing a parallel between what looks like a real case of police brutality in New York and what looks like a legit self-defense case in Ferguson? And why are they assuming that the New York case is an instance of racism, and not an example of how the police are generally abusing their power of late? We saw a similar case with the retarded boy in the movie theater.

    It is NOT “helpful” to refuse to distinguish between the facts of these cases. It reduces individual, unique scenarios to a single narrative regardless of facts, leaving no room for a discussion of true justice.

    • James Stanton

      I was reading the other day that Michael Brown Sr’s own church was burned. I’m sure he and most of this majority African-American city wanted no part of what happened. This kind of destruction is evil and wrong but communities affected can and will rebuild and recover. You can feel empathy for these people as well as the broader struggle that Christian African-Americans are addressing here. Focusing on that struggle does not mean they don’t care that homes and livelihoods were destroyed in Ferguson.

      Some would like to treat Ferguson as an isolated event that has no broader meaning whereas others see it as part of a never-ending story. It’s not simply the verdict that people are upset about. If you listen to the song, the singer is actually identifying with the victims through shared experience.

      “And why are they assuming that the New York case is an instance of racism, and not an example of how the police are generally abusing their power of late?”

      I’m not sure that these are mutually exclusive. The cultural feeling amongst many blacks is that police target them heavily and unfairly, well beyond their share of the population. Also, police brutality towards blacks is not a new thing.

      “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”

      • Brian Holland

        Amen Esther! I can only wonder out loud if the Southern Baptists are so morally ambiguous here because they (meaning the denomination, not them personally) were on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. Sin is still sin, and you can’t be afraid to call it what it is. When the church, the true Bible believing church is so afraid of being called racist that we fold like lawn chairs when a Tsunami comes in then it’s a truly sad, and frightening day for the country.

        And James about 400 people (In a country of 320+ million) die at the hands of cops every year, and about 75% of them are white. Yes blacks are overrepresented in that stat, but unfortunately and tragically they are in every violent crime statistic.

        Does the experience of black conservatives who believe first and foremost in personal responsibility, and not blaming outside forces count for nothing? Why are blacks who see themselves as victims the only ones worth listening to? Is it not racist to see them as helpless?

        I fear that nothing will ultimately change in this arena unless Christians of all ethnicities are willing to speak out on the importance of fathers, and having two parent homes, and against the disfunction that multiculturalism has brought us.

        • Esther O'Reilly

          I know, I was really disappointed to see Thabiti Anyabwile strongly criticizing and dismissing a poster that was created to show the tragic dysfunction of Michael Brown’s family. I read the poster carefully, and it didn’t seem mean-spirited, mocking or gloating—just honestly pointing out the tragic circumstances that led to this tragic occurrence, and encouraging people to act for a change. But Anyabwile almost seemed to view the poster as a sin!

    • mscottc

      My sentiments exactly. Is there some cognitive disconnect here? Does Trip Lee really want to identify himself with Michael Brown? I grant that the New York/ Garner case is an instance of unnecessary police brutality and MAY have been racially motivated. But the evidence from Ferguson does not match that of NY. When respectable black Christians lump all such cases together in a monolithic way they lose credibility. It then becomes hard to take anything else they say about the situation seriously. Secondly, I believe it fuels a further racial divide. It would be better to say nothing. But then as a white person I am told I don’t understand because I am not black and therefore I lose credibility. I have never experienced racial profiling. Of course this is not true. I (as many whites) have been equal victims of profiling from black people. In one case I feared for my life while a black man uttered threats to me because I was white. But of course, that means nothing. Reverse racism is not the problem we are told.

      This is only the tip of the iceberg and it tells me we have very serious problems here. The only black people I have heard make sense of the situation is Voddie Baucham, Thomas Sowell, Charles Barkley, and Benjamin Watson. Most otherwise respectable black voices (especially in the Christian community) seem to have a chip on their shoulder and it seems to cloud their judgment.

    • buddyglass

      I suspect the implied point is that the sort of thing that happened to Brown also happens to people like Lee himself. That is, black men who aren’t in the practice of robbery, jaywalking and assaulting police officers.

      Whether or not that’s a valid point is a separate question, but that’s what I think is being implied.

      • mscottc

        If so, the ambiguity does not help promote the message. The way I understand it is facts don’t matter, if a black man was killed then it must have been the result of racial injustice–end of story. And I think that is the way many people are responding to the situation. They could care less about the facts of the case because it fits an agenda. This is why lumping Brown, Garner, Travon, et. al. in to one monolithic case for racial injustice without examining the facts of each case is a travesty of irresponsibility and fuels racial tension instead of cooling it. When truth is sacrificed upon the altar of political expediency then we are all in trouble.

  • Andrew Alladin

    If only Trip Lee could remember to apply the same lyrics to the victims of crime. Every time news of another taxi driver or food deliveryman being shot in the head for a few dollars; every time someone is shoved into the path of an oncoming subway train by a mentally disturbed person; every time someone is beaten in an empty train station or lonely bus stop for her money, cell phone, or ipod – I always say “It coulda been me.”

    Recent converts to the Social Justice trend in evangelicalism are looking opportunistic. They seem too hungry to prove their Social Justice/Racial Justice bonafides. Is this where the cool kids are now? Is this part of the new Cultural Engagement – now that the Culture Wars are over (The Left Won) and Gay Marriage is the Law of the Land.

      • James Stanton

        How do you justify conflating social and racial justice with gay marriage and other culture wars? I think we need to separate core Biblical issues from disagreements over political ideology. Social and racial justice should not be left right issues.

        • Brian Holland

          James have you been to a university lately? They have classes and seminars on “white privilege!” White males are seen as the cause of everything bad in the world. And they also have things like “critical race theory” which teaches that the race of a person should factor into every decision made about his or her life by those in power. So if my wife and I want to teach our kids to be as colorblind possible, and “judge people by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin,” then these “progressives” will come along and say “no, you’ve got to be re-educated. Race has to be factored into everything because of the history of racism, and the ongoing white-supremacy.” In fact they would say that teaching your kids to have biblical worldview and see people as human beings created in God’s image, first and foremost is somehow a form of “white supremacy.”

          So let’s not kid ourselves for a moment. This is at the forefront of the culture wars, because it is a clash of worldviews. It’s a clash over whether humans beings are fundamentally image bearers of God, and created equal by Him, or whether we embrace idolatry, and create some kind of caste system.

  • Esther O'Reilly

    It’s also worth asking this question: Trip says he was stopped for “fitting the description” of a criminal. We could have an interesting discussion about whether police should just go around man-handling innocent people like that when they’re looking for a criminal. But whose fault was it that the police were chasing a black criminal? The black criminal’s!

    If a store has been repeatedly robbed by young black man, they are naturally going to feel slightly nervous when another young black men walks into their store, just as if they had been robbed by large purple dinosaurs, even Barney could make them a little nervous. If people overreact and see a threat when there isn’t a threat, or stop the wrong guy, etc., it ultimately goes back to the plain and simple fact that there is a higher per capita rate of crime within the the black community than in any other ethnic group. Trip Lee makes it sound like the fact that the police were looking for a black guy is somehow the police’s fault. It’s not.

  • Jay Ryder

    White Christians should be looking at the “It Could Have Me” phrase and imagining that they themselves are the ones who are being unjustly targeted, as in the case of Eric Garner.

    A day is probably not that far away when being openly Christian or proselytizing will become a crime. Just imagine Eric Garner as a street evangelist, a husband, and father of four, who has previously been arrested and continues to be hounded by police for preaching in public. Try to fit into his shoes for a moment.

    Just a few questions come to mind: Doesn’t the fact that more than a half dozen cops were hounding this guy for being suspected of selling loosies (which essentially boils down to a crime of not paying the NY cigarette tax) seriously concern the moralists and legalists here? Doesn’t the fact that the police officer showed no sympathy for Garner when he was crying out that he couldn’t breathe bother you guys (DAN?). Doesn’t the fact that all of those police officers and the EMT just stood there looking at Ganer’s limp body on the sidewalk concern anyone? Doesn’t the fact that the EMT was telling Garner to get into the stretcher after his limp body laid on the pavement all of that time???

    Fellas, this is a horrendous injustice. If you fail to grasp it, then I pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the mind of our Father in Heaven.

  • Dan Phillips

    Hi Jay. Apparently you don’t read my tweets or blogs, which is fine; if you did, you’d not ask. I can’t imagine a rationale for what was done to Garner. It’s appalling to watch, and has every mark of overkill. Why a black (or any) sergeant would oversee and approve of this, and officials sanction it, is beyond me.

    THAT SAID, would it have happened if he’d cooperated? Or can we not ask that?

    But that isn’t really my own stress, because Lee is not that distinct. He lumps in Ferguson, doesn’t he? I see that as totally different.

    To my mind a narrative that puts all responsibility on the shoulders of the officers will only succeed in locking people into hopelessness, and in more people getting killed.

    That’s why we need a positive, proactive, comprehensive, Gospel-centered solution. Like this attempt:

    Thanks for asking.

    • Jay Ryder

      Dan, perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if he had easily, voluntarily allowed the police to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. But then I think what it would be like to know that I will immediately go to jail for broken probation if that policeman arrests me.

      I’m going to beg not to be arrested and try to do everything I can to try to change the cop’s mind, so I won’t end up in jail — because that’s exactly what’s going to happen to him.

      Plus, the first police officer who confronted Mr. Garner did not act in a very professional manner at all. His demeanor and dialogue did not communicate anything serious, mature, or authoritative. Up until the point when a whole gang of officers jumped on him, it only seemed like Eric Garner was trying to argue his case to someone who looked like and carried himself basically like a meter maid.

      While the whole narrative should not go on police officers, a significant portion of the narrative needs to start there — especially given the fact that the role of policing has changed so significantly over the past 12-13 years. The Patriot Act and the data collections of the NSA has opened up a whole new level of policing that never existed back in Mayberry.

      Some day, Christians are going to wish they did more to correct the injustice now. Unfortunately, our inability to sympathize with the oppressed might keep us from being on the right side of history, much to our own detriment later on.

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