Editorial: A tragically familiar story

_____, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed last week by _____, a white officer.

This was the headline last week when police officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott eight times in the back. It felt all too familiar. We have seen headlines like this again and again over the last few years.

This was Michael Brown. This was 12-year-old Tamir Rice. This was Trayvon Martin, shot by a white neighborhood watch volunteer. This was Eric Garner, a victim of a different type of police brutality.

How do we not become numb when this same story is repeated over and over and over again? We wrote last week about how important it is to remember, to mourn and to tell the story of those who are grieving.

We at Chimes don’t have the answers to the racial disparity that contributes to the tragedies we see over and over. All we can do in the space we have is to share facts and statistics that illustrate a pattern that is felt across our country.

It is undeniable at this point that our country has a serious and tragic problem. We live in a country that has both the largest economy and one of the greatest wealth disparities in the industrialized world — a disparity that is starkly drawn along racial and ethnic lines.

According to Pew Research Center, the median wealth of a white household is 13 times that of a black household in the United States. African Americans’ life expectancy is five to seven years lower than their white neighbors. Even here in Grand Rapids, an African American infant is two-and-a-half times more likely to die in her first year than a Caucasian infant.

These disparities speak to a systematic racism that we are sometimes afraid to talk about. This racism can lead to snap judgments that continue to produce headlines like last week’s, headlines that challenge us to check our own biases and assumptions.

The MSDO and other groups and departments at Calvin have started important conversations about race, and we encourage the student body to join in. Let’s ask difficult questions. Let’s come together to imagine what difficult changes would look like.