Calling on God in time of trouble, great sorrow

SUSAN K SMITH | 10/31/2016, 5:34 p.m.
Last week in Columbus, Ohio, a young teen – 13 years old – was shot and killed by a Columbus ...

Last week in Columbus, Ohio, a young teen – 13 years old – was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer. The little boy (as I will call him) was allegedly involved in an armed robbery. Police were called, and he and two of his friends ran. This child apparently had a BB gun, which looked remarkably real. Police say the child pulled the gun from his waistband and they shot him multiple times.

The police were apparently not wearing body cameras, and no witnesses have yet come forward to say what they saw, if anything. But the child, Tyre King, was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. He and his friends were in the neighborhood where I once lived, which is undergoing heavy gentrification. What used to be an all-Black neighborhood is now characterized with young White people, quaint coffee shops and bakeries. It is a different place than it was when I and my family lived there.

While we do not know what happened, it appears that the youths held someone up [with the fake gun?] and got $10. That person called police and police immediately responded, again, something different than what used to be the case. When I lived there, police were often slow to respond to calls for help.

When police arrived on the scene, the youths ran, and moments later, young King was on the ground, mortally wounded.

At a vigil held in the playground of a now closed public school, the school where my daughter attended first and second grade, the pain of the people gathered was palpable. King’s sister was there, still obviously in shock, as her brother had been dead for less than 24 hours. I was there to support, to watch, to listen, to lend a shoulder…

And then someone asked me to pray for the family and friends of young King and for the situation.

God, in time of trouble.

I looked around for a second. I knew their pain, and I knew their connection to God. I knew many of them were and are deeply religious. And I know how religion has been a mainstay of African American people as we have grappled with this country’s racism and its attendant brutality.

But, God, why? I knew that many to most of those on that playground had been taught to never question God. I knew that they had been taught to believe that whatever happens is always God’s will. But that couldn’t be the words of the prayer that evening.

I remember being in St. Louis when the officer who killed Eric Garner was exonerated of wrongdoing in his death. The videotape that showed the encounter meant nothing to the grand jury. I was actually at a meeting of faith leaders when we learned of the acquittal. As we sat and gasped, a young man who looked to be in his early 20s, got up and began walking toward the door, sobbing, and asking, “God, why?” I felt that same pain on that night in the school playground.