Eugene Cho

The injustice in McKinney reminds us again that we desperately need a fresh imagination of restorative justice.

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I need to share some thoughts. And I know that some of you may get confused, upset, or angry. That’s ok.

This past week, we saw another example of egregious mis-use of power; We witnessed another example or byproduct of systems, institutions, and structures that’s skewed or distorted; That diminishes the value of black bodies as lesser than…That’s what racism is. Not only can people be racist but what’s even more dangerous are structures that are distorted in such ways that it can be racialized … and people don’t even know. Which explains why after every nearly episode (Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, McKinney, etc.) so many ask, “How is that racist?”

This is why – even at personal costs – we have to begin and continue to name certain things. Just name it! What officer Eric Casebolt did was wrong. He was out of control.

So, what’s justice in this situation? Is justice ensuring that he gets suspended or fired or forced to resign? That’s what happened, right? He resigned. (I initially thought he was fired). So, justice is served, right? On to the next story.

But…let’s pause for a moment. To be honest, I read news of his resignation with sadness; As a missed opportunity for our nation…a missed opportunity for us.  In fact, I would suggest that he shouldn’t have been able to resign. Able to walk away and thus, changing the narrative as the victim in the story. Happens too often.

This is where some of you might get confused with what I have to say. We don’t just need justice. We can’t just exclusively have an eye for an eye justice. We can’t just exact as much pain and suffering unto others. If an eye for an eye does indeed create a society of blind people (paraphrased from Gandhi), this is a version of justice that in the long run, will only create more fear, distrust, and division.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying justice is not important. Officer Casebolt ought to have been suspended for an indefinite time but what if we had room and space for redemption.

As Christians in particular, a Gospel story without redemption is a broken and bankrupt theology of the Gospel.

God is in the business of restoring broken and fallen people, right? I’d like to believe…I need to believe that for all of us…we are not defined by our very worst mistakes. In other words, the beauty of redemption – for you, me, us, and them – is the hope in knowing that Christ is not yet done with us.

In the same way that many are rightly and prophetically calling for a more dignified storytelling of all peoples (eg ruminate on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), we must have the courage to believe this for others…for all of us. Meaning, is it possible for us to vilify and demonize Casebolt in such a way, that it’s not justice we’re seeking but retribution masked under the guise of justice? Do we believe that redemption and reconciliation is possible? Yes, clamoring for reconciliation with justice is lacking but such is seeking justice without a hope for reconciliation.

In other words, what does RESTORATIVE JUSTICE look like? My hope for the church (and for our larger society) is to be bent not just for the clamoring and demanding of swift justice but an imagination for restorative justice. Oh, we need a fresh imagination.

  • Can you imagine a story where Casebolt is indeed suspended but during this time, invited to undergo extensive counseling and additional training?
  • If Dajerria and her family was willing – since she should not feel obligated to engage in this process, can you imagine if he willingly went to Dajerria and truly apologized to her and her family? Truly apologized. Person to person. Have you ever seen a police officer after a tumultuous situation…apologize to the said person?
  • Can you imagine the impact this would have on Dajerria?
  • Can you imagine the impact on Eric?
  • Can you imagine if their two families got together to break bread?
  • Can you imagine the impact on local communities? On our nation?

Can you imagine?

What we need in the world isn’t just more of our version of justice but a glimpse of restorative justice that merges the biblical invitation and command of Micah 6:8 – “Seek justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.”

Yes, it’s hard to imagine but we need a fresh vision…a fresh imagination.

But we don’t have to look too far for such a vision. If we look closely at the life of Jesus, this is the vision and imagination He offers to us.

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10 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    I love this. I was having a similar train of thought earlier today while I was driving, and you have just fleshed it out so nicely here for me! 🙂

  2. Yodit says:

    THANK YOU for this!!!!! you articulated what’s been in m y heart about the pursuit of justice. because at the end of the day..our pursuit of justice , if it doesn’t have the essence of who jesus is, means nothing.

  3. Jim J. says:

    I love the idea of correction and reconciliation rather than revenge and punishment, but as I read it, this officer already was required to attend counseling for previous actions. This is a great idea in need of an effective mechanism to make it work

  4. Kenny H. says:

    Really?!?!?!! Did you know that Casebolt worked TWO suicide calls right before this?! One sided

    • Alice Lee says:

      That’s commendable that he worked on those suicide calls. And maybe that can help explain what his actions were. Being a PO is a stressful job. And he was in panic mode here. He lost control of the situation. As a result, this young girl suffered in his hands (literally and figuratively). That is why Eugene is suggesting training/counseling instead of just termination.

  5. Scott Lee says:

    This is so WRONG on so many levels!! Do some contextual work and investigate the whole story! Justice does not mean we demand action for what we think happened. In this case, Officer Casebolt responded to bring order to teens who were breaking the neighborhood HOA’s rules. They were disorderly, illegally promoting an event, and disrespecting an officer of the law by not following his instructions, and not to mention acting in ways that comes across threatening to the police officer (you’ll see in the video kids approaching Officer Casebolt with hands in their pockets). Also, the police officer did not get fired. He resigned. He was thrown under the bus, he is not getting his share of the story, because everyone is jumping to conclusion without looking at the big picture. Eugene Cho, you and others, if you truly want redemption, please repent for this non-sense post. I get that redemption is good, I’m all for it, and I’m not condoning what the officer did, but if I were him I may have done the same thing. You’re drawing a line in the sand by ignoring the real story. You’re condoning that lawless, disrespecting teenagers can get away with whatever because of their skin colors. If my kids were promoting an event like Miss Rhodes was doing, and breaking laws to do that, I’d kick their ass. This post is not about the pursuit of justice, it only goes to show how ignorant you are about this issue, and how quickly you jump to conclusions based on a short youtube clip.

    • Clint says:

      Spot on Scott Lee. So very sad that one chooses to take a short clip and build around their own story of racism to fit their agenda. There were several conflicting witness statements that said these teens not only broke the HOA rules but most importantly were unruly and refusing the officers commands. And who in the world expects to lunge at an officer and not expect them to pull a gun. When I’m pulled over I sure as heck dis

  6. I can imagine. Thank you, pastor Cho.

  7. Clint says:

    Can you imagine if Dajerria and her friends would have acted like I and many others act when confronted by a police officer. Can you imagine respecting law enforcement, obeying the law and commands. Can you imagine these teens understanding this officer is spat at, shot at, yelled at by many people who break laws and aim to hurt others. Can you imagine this officer has the most difficult job in the country my can you imagine dealing with this tremendous stress always managing your fears. Can you imagine walking into a situation with dozens of teens who will not respect your commands while you try to sort things out. Again. Imagine what you do when you are pulled over for speeding. I hope you respect the officer while you try to sort things out.

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